• Brian Padden

Now that we know what ACEs do to our children, are we doing enough to combat them?


Nero plasticity, the latest tool in the fight against trauma

This year marks the twentieth anniversary since the release of the first ACEs report by Dr Vincent Felitti, yet most people have not heard of the expression and are not aware of the long term physical, mental and social effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences.

In that time many global studies have looked at the impact of ACEs on various aspects of individuals’ lives and the cost to society. A 2014 report by Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) puts the cost of mental health issues in the UK at £70bn per year, many of these issues will have been caused by childhood trauma.

The 70/30 campaign puts the cost of child maltreatment at £15bn per year ( www.70-30.org.uk/ ) and “40% of local spending is due to failing to act early enough”

So the burning question is: “Now that we know what ACEs do to our children, are we doing enough to combat them?”

The short answer is no, but there is progress being made. The initial reports linked ACEs to poor long term outcomes; the next stage of the journey was to discover why that was. Work by Dr Nadine Burke-Harris, among others has shown that childhood trauma affects the development of the brain in young children. Parts of the brain that deal with stress are overactive which weakens and damages the neurons to other parts of the brain, leading them to be underdeveloped.

https://www.ted.com/talks/nadine_burke_harris_how_childhood_trauma_affects_health_across_a_lifetime?language=en

This science, known as neuroplasticity, has been developed by Professor Mike Merzenich, his research has been published in over 100 peer-reviewed articles world-wide and has received the converted Kavli Prize for his contribution to neuroscience. He is Chief Scientific Officer and on the Board of Directors at Posit Science and is now working with his team at www.brainhq.com to develop technology which strengthens the brains of traumatised children, and repairs the damage caused by trauma.

Evolve Social Impact are a multi-award winning UK based organisation dedicated to improving the lives of children www.evolvesi.com Evolve have pioneered a school based mentoring system which improves the physical, mental, emotional and cognitive health of children through delivering physical activity alongside 1-1 or group mentoring support. At a recent conference hosted by Evolve Social Impact Company, The Brain HQ team worked alongside Evolve Health Mentors to share ideas and resources. This will lead to Evolve being at the forefront of the campaign for schools to be trauma aware.

So, although there is not enough being done to combat the effects of ACEs, we have come a long way in not only understanding the link between ACEs and long term effects, but also how the brain is under-developed by trauma and more recently how to combat that using neuroplasticity.

The next steps on the journey are developing a strategy to identify children with trauma and using trained, trauma informed mentors use neuroplasticity technology to repair the damage to build stronger brains whilst continuing to educate schools, social work, MPs prisons and others about what ACEs are, what they do and how to prevent and reverse their damage.

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