NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Metro schools are working to help children and parents deal with adverse childhood experiences.
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) cover a wide range of things that happen in a child’s life that can impact their ability to learn and lead to long-term consequences.
ACE can include witnessing community violence, living in poverty, family dysfunction and the death of a parent to name a few.
These factors can impact children no matter their race, cultural background, family wealth or neighborhood.
“It is easy to make the assumption that children leaving refugee camps and coming to this country are facing post-traumatic stress disorder or some other disorder,” MNPS Chief Support Services Officer Dr. Tony Majors said. “The reality is because of the diversity of adverse childhood experiences it can affect all students so it doesn’t matter whether the child is an immigrant or natural born citizen.”
He continued, “In a school system our size we have to recognize that because even if a small percentage of our children are dealing with an adverse childhood experience it has the potential to impact a large percentage of children.”
The reality is a lot of parents do not realize their children can suffer from ACEs in connection with issues adults around them are facing.
“It can be essentially any event that adversely affects a child and causes undue stress on a child,” Dr. Vincent Morelli said. “This is an area that parents definitely aren’t aware enough of and these kinds of events can affect not only a child’s ability to learn but actually affect the brains of these children.”
Dr. Morelli is an expert in ACE and works as an outside contractor to train MNPS principals.
“If they are unaware of these situations they may think their child’s behavior is just because they are a bad kid,” Dr. Morelli said. “Parents won’t know the underlying causes.”
He continued. “Awareness will help them to better alleviate or understand how these events will impact them.”
Recent studies show that gone unidentified and treated children with one or more ACE in their backgrounds can grow up to have problems with obesity, drug/alcohol abuse, diabetes and cancer to name just some.
In Metro Schools, the system is providing special training to teachers and faculty so they can recognize indicators and help students.
It also helps parents because ACE and its impact is an area of education and childhood development that’s only recently become a more studied area.
“We have identified this need as of critical importance because a large percentage of our school population is encountering some kind of stress,” Mary Crnobori said. “We are first raising awareness with a professional development that is informing all teachers and practitioners who encounter kids throughout the school day.”
Crnobori is one of MNPS’ cluster support team members. ACEs are just one area of issues they deal with for the district.
“We are striving to provide safe, stable and nurturing relationships with our students in the school environment,” she said. “Teachers are trained in positive, supportive, social interactions.”
There is research about these ACEs in Tennessee compiles by the Tennessee Department of Health.
The CDC also completed a study that can be helpful to parents.