Dr. Walsh mentioned an ACE assessment in his keynote address at the Great Kids Make Great Communities conference in Ft. Wayne, IN on October 4, 2012. I was wondering if I could get a hold of that assessment or more information.
Thanks, Andrea, Ft. Wayne, IN
Thanks for your questions. Let me give other folks a bit of background. Research has been clear for generations that a healthy start is critical for child development and that early childhood trauma can leave long lasting scars. The ACE study shows the impact and also serves as a simple to use screening tool to identify children in need of helpful interventions to reduce their risk for later problems. ACE stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences and is a joint project of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente in California. The scientists have surveyed more than 17,000 people for ten different “adverse childhood experiences,” and found that the higher the ACE score the greater the risk for health, social or economic problems later in life.
The ten experiences that place children at risk include
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Alcohol or drug addiction in the family
- Domestic violence
- Separation or divorce
- Mental illness in the family
- No love in the family
- Emotional abuse
- Family member in prison
The assessment tool, which is only ten questions, can be found at the ACE website http://acestudy.org/
Among its disturbing findings, the ACE study revealed that twenty percent of American children have scores of three and higher. Children with scores higher than four are more likely to have behavior problems in school. The higher the score the more likely the child is to have health, social and economic problems later in life.
The ACE study can be useful as a screening measure so that interventions can be provided to reduce the risk. An ACE score high enough to indicate risk should not be seen as a predictor of problems but rather a signal to provide the help and support to counteract the effects of unfortunate early experiences.
Here are some of the strategies that can help these children develop the resilience they need to grow into healthy and happy adults.
- Find ways to support "connectedness" in these kids' lives – make sure they feel connected to caring adults in school or in their community.
- Identify and build on these children's strengths. Find ways for them to participate meaningfully in school or in their community and share their assets with others.
- Teach the children how to calm themselves. Mindfulness training is showing great promise.
- Teach children to embrace mistakes because we can learn from them.
- Teach children to “start all over again” when they become frustrated.
- Maintain realistic but high expectations.
- Teach and insist on cooperation and sharing.
- Support children while holding them accountable.