‘Every child with an ACE needs a Knight’. We at Running Deer, are a banner of Knights – especially now that we are armed with Trauma Informed Schools training. ‘Just one emotionally available adult in a child’s school career can make all the difference’ (Quotes from Trauma Informed Schools publications).
ACEs and Knights
The notion of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) began way back in this 1980s when a clinician in an obesity clinic (one of my personal hero’s, Vincent Felitti) noticed, that most of his patients, who dropped out, had suffered abuse. Startled by the potential implications of this discovery he convinced Kaiser Permanente and the CDC to fund a study about the effects of various ACEs in 1995/7.
This study included over 17,000 people and demonstrated that there was a direct correlation between a high number of ACEs with serious mental and physical health problems throughout life.
So, childhood trauma not only has an effect on an individual’s mental health but also their physical health – and this is often lifelong and life limiting. This seems remarkably unfair, that those who have suffered the most, continue to suffer and even die younger than those who haven’t.
What we consider to be ACEs have now evolved and are not only what we might immediately imagine (and form part of every school’s safeguarding awareness and policy) such as direct abuse, domestic violence etc. ACEs also include events like parental separation / divorce, multiple moves, witnessing violence and bullying as well as having a close family member suffering with addiction or going into prison.
So, why do some people who suffer a high number of ACEs not develop negative outcomes? For people who have more than four ACEs, protective factors can help build in resilience, which works for about three out of four children.
Protective factors include, feeling loved by one or both parents, or having other people around the family who the child feels loves them and or plays with them.
Running Deer offers protective factors to those students who have suffered a high number of ACE’s -. Because we work so closely alongside our students, as individuals, we build trusting relationships with them, encouraging them to feel capable of achieving their goals – within a setting where there are rules and boundaries.
We offer an empathetic listening ear for their frustrations with learning and emotions generally and help to instil a sense that they have agency over their lives.
For me, the students at Running Deer are the heroes and we the Knights in muddy boots and waterproofs fighting alongside for the future they deserve.