What Are ACES: Adverse Childhood Experiences?

DSC_0891Courtesy of BuncombeAces.org: ACE stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences which occur prior to your 18th birthday. Examples of adverse childhood experiences are physical, sexual and emotional abuse, as well as physical and emotional neglect. They also include, having a parent who is mentally ill, an alcoholic or substance abuser, in jail, or a victim of domestic violence, as well as the absence of a parent through divorce, death or abandonment. These are all ACEs.

Research has shown that traumatic, or stressful events in childhood (ACEs), injure a child’s brain, impairing the brain’s physical development and function. ACEs may cause kids to have difficulties learning, making friends, and trusting adults.

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris gives a TED Talk on how trauma affects children’s development and it’s effects into adulthood.

Your health could be impacted by your childhood experiences.

As adults, these experiences don’t go away. Multiple stressful events in childhood, may resurface in adulthood. The ACE Study found a stunning link between multiple stressful events in childhood (ACEs) and chronic diseases, as well as social, emotional and behavioral problems. These included heart disease, lung cancer, diabetes and many autoimmune diseases, as well as depression, mental illness, suicide, and being a victim of violence.

Each type of trauma counts as one. At least 70% of our population has an ACE score of at least one. As your ACE score increases, so does the risk of disease, social and emotional problems.

What do I do Now? Resources and Building Resilience.

Once you know your ACE score and its impact, there are personal strategies and community resources that exist to help you. Asking for help, developing trusting relationships, forming a positive attitude, and paying attention to your instincts and feelings are ways to improve your life. These can assist in breaking the cycle of ACEs in your family. Reaching out to a trusted member of your community such as a doctor, a counselor, a teacher, or a church or spiritual leader is another way to get help. Additional resources can be found on the Resources page of this website.

Using these suggestions, both early in a child’s life and as an adult, can lessen the impact of ACEs on you and your family.

Building Resilience

Once you know your ACE Score and its impact, there are personal strategies and community resources that exist to help you. Asking for help, developing trusting relationships, forming a positive attitude, and paying attention to your instincts and feelings are ways to improve your life. These can assist in breaking the cycle of ACEs in your family. Reaching out to a trusted member of your community, such as a doctor, a counselor, a teacher, or a church or spiritual leader is another way to get help.

 

Using these suggestions, both early in a child’s life and as an adult, can lessen the impact of ACEs on you and your family.

• Social Connections: Build relationships with others; strengthen your social network.
• Resilience: Learn to take care of yourself, so you can take care of others.

• Knowledge of Parenting & Child Development:Take advantage of classes and resources available in the community.

• Concrete Support in Times of Need: Make sure your basic needs -such as food, clothing and shelter- are met. Once they are met, you can focus on your family and your health. (2-1-1 is a local resource that can help your patients access the basics).

• Social and Emotional Competence: Identify and understand your feelings and emotions in order to express them in a healthy way.

For local resources to help build resilience, call 211
or visit YouFindServices.org

To find out more, go to BuncombeAces.org

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This story is part of a series collected by The Success Equation. Under the umbrella of Children First/CIS, the Success Equation is an initiative that unites community to reduce and prevent the root causes of poverty so all children can thrive. Get involved! Learn about action steps, volunteer opportunities, and help share these messages by going to www.facebook.com/SuccessEquation. To find more, go to www.successequation.org.