Children, Trauma and Resilience

Excellent panel discussion among several child trauma experts sponsored by the California HealthCare Foundation: what childhood trauma is, how it can be treated and prevented, and its effects on the health of adults.

Family therapist Robin Karr-Morse, author of Scared Sick: The Role of Childhood Trauma in Adult Disease, opened the discussion by talking about the effects of both emotional and physical trauma on children’s brains. Both trigger the fight-or-flight response, she explained, meaning that fear enters the brain, affecting a variety of functions including the pituitary and adrenal systems that regulate important hormones. Constant stress affects the brain and nervous system at fundamental architectural levels.
Katie Albright, the executive director of the San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center, added that children develop resiliencies in different ways and protect themselves naturally. But she also works to provide mechanisms to help both children and parents react when bad things happen. “We teach kids to use their voices” to tell a safe adult what’s going on–and we “teach parents to listen to them,” she said.
Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, the founding physician and former medical director of San Francisco’s Bayview Child Health Center: any threat to a child’s integrity can trigger a fear response. Children who have lived in homes with domestic violence, who have experienced physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, or who have been separated suddenly from their parents all experience trauma. “It’s different for different kids,” she said. “People talk a lot about resilience, and I’m very cautious of that word. . . .  Two siblings in the same household can have a very different response to the same trauma.
Moderated by Sarah Varney,  KQED healthcare reporter and moderator.
Recognizing and working with children with complex trauma in schools:
Here are links to schools recognizing and working with trauma in kids.  Washington state seems to be a leader in acknowledging children with extremely dysregulated nervous systems in schools due to complex developmental trauma/Adverse Childhood Experiences at home.  — the inability to regulate their behavior. . .
and  The story about how Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, WA, saw an 85% drop in suspensions the first year it instituted a trauma-informed approach to school discipline obviously hit a nerve when I published it last year. It went viral on Reddit, and had 375,000 page views. In the last month, it’s had a viral revival via Facebook — another 260,000 page views.  This is about the school’s health center, interviews with the kids:
“But Lincoln alone can’t make enough changes to help every child,” says Barila. “That social-emotional competency has to be built in soooo much sooner than Lincoln,” she notes. The goal of the Children’s Resilience Initiative is to educate the entire community about adverse childhood experiences, the effect of toxic stress on kids’ brains, and to encourage all organizations, agencies, clinics and youth groups to build and increase resilience factors. That’s why she named the organization the Children’s Resilience Initiative and not the ACEs Education Initiative, she says.
An early childhood/Head Start intervention strategy, Circle of Security (COS) is/would be much more effective/cost effective because it is preventive – catching very early the kinds of dysfunctional parenting and overwhelming family life circumstances that cause the Adverse Childhood Experiences that the ACE study has proved underlie ongoing adults’ health and children’s school problems. COS offers its handouts for free, with certain stipulations, at . Parents in my practice have found these illustrations to be very helpful in understanding how to better respond to their children’s needs.
Emotional Regulatory Healing/ERH for teachers, administrators, foster and adoptive parents – and all parents:  In Feb, 2014, over a hundred of us in Santa Cruz county attended a Child Abuse Prevention Committee symposium, From Chaos to Calm, on ERH, which” integrates current research in neurodevelopment with ancient paradigms for restoring the mind, body and spirit. ERH explores those parallel processes occurring in broader systems that reveal many of the symptoms professionals encounter when working with traumatized children and families. . .The objective of ERH is toward the maximization of human potential through healing, regulated relationship.” The objectives of the symposium were to:
  • Discover the truth in healing through exploring the roots of trauma
  • Understand the parallel processes in macro systems
  • Develop a shared mental model and global language for understanding trauma
  • Be introduced to brain-based strategies for working with children
  • Explore our regulatory capacities when in the midst of our work with children and families

Created by Juli Alvarado, ERH  provides a cohesive framework within which healing can be addressed at the organizational level as well as in clinical programming. The ERH website has an excellent Glossary of Terms defining key concepts in the field of interpersonal neurobiology and creating more regulated nervous systems in adults and therefore in the children we hope to support.

why childhood trauma has such tragic long-term consequences: Toxic stress physically damages a child’s developing brain. This was determined by a group of researchers, including neurobiologist Martin Teicher and pediatrician Jack Shonkoff, both at Harvard University, and neuroscientist Bruce McEwen at Rockefeller University. In a nutshell, toxic overdoses of stress hormones stunt the growth of some parts of the brain, and overload the circuits in others.

. . . the underlying model . . .  the ARC model (Attachment, Self-Regulation and Competency (ARC) Clinical Services) developed at the Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute. Turner and her co-workers were also influenced by the trauma-sensitive classroom movement, for which more information can be found in Helping Traumatized Children Learn (also known as the purple book),  published by Massachusetts Advocates for Children.)
TRAUMA-INFORMED COMMUNITIES: TARPON SPRINGS, FL, ONCE KNOWN for harboring the nation’s largest sponge-harvesting industry, today boasts a new designation: it may be the first city in the country to declare itself a trauma-informed community.