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Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences

Insight from Dr. Nicolle Mayo


by Dr Nicolle Mayo - November 4, 2019

The ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) study conducted in 1995 developed in response to doctors investigating why obese adults who lose weight end up dropping out of their weight loss program and putting all of their weight back on. Interested in examining any particular causes, the results of this study presented some surprising and incredibly helpful information based on the impact of how childhood background plays a role. As a result, this study has been influential in confirming how severe childhood experiences contribute to short and long-term impacts of physical and mental health, dysfunctional relationships, and self-sabotaging behaviors. Used in many trainings and cited in clinical literature, it provides a baseline for how to comprehensively assess problems in a child’s home, and even how to provide early intervention by recognizing the signs and symptoms of child trauma. See this link for more information on the background and implications of this study:

Mansfield University Psychology Professor Karen Crisp and I recently presented information about the ACE study to increase educators’ awareness of their students’ backgrounds, as well as provide some simple intervention tools to working with kids.

Some impactful tools to use with children to help them navigate past trauma include:

1) Physical and emotional FELT safety of the child is so important. Connecting to kids is key, along with building a positive environment for them to express their hurts, fears, pain, and also joys, excitements, and accomplishments.

2) An awareness that anything could be a trigger to trauma for kids breeds understanding when educators see distress, learning difficulties, poor impulse control, and self-sabotaging behaviors (among many other symptoms).

3) Giving children a voice by asking about their perspective, rather than blaming them for behaviors we have no contextual understanding of is essential.

4) Children need help regulating their emotions, especially if they are survivors of trauma. Because their fight or flight system is compromised after adverse trauma experiences, they need help learning to identify, acknowledge, and express their emotions appropriately. Adults can be great models for this learned behavior.

5) Children need support from trusted adults; if they know that they have a team of people rooting for them, they have a greater chance of overcoming adversity.

These steps introduce ways for caring adults to help support children. Although simple, they are quite impactful, especially when the child has very little or no support from any other adults.


Videography: Ethan Chabala

Video Editing: Ethan Chabala

Writing: Dr Nicolle Mayo


Produced by Vogt Media

Funded by C&N, Akiko’s

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