#22 February 14, 2020

22.  February 14, 2020

Hello Black River Falls community!  This is Dr. Shelly Severson, Superintendent of the SDBRF, and I’m here to share this weeks’ Spotlight on Schools.  Today, I want to talk to you about a serious topic that is impacting our students in very real ways. You may hear things about childhood trauma and students in need of mental health services and not really know what people are referring to and how so many of our students have this need.  There is a heavy body of research that is called ACES, this stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are negative experiences that happen during childhood.  There are 10 types of childhood trauma measured in the ACE Study. Five are personal — physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect, and emotional neglect. Five are related to other family members: a parent who’s an alcoholic, a mother who’s a victim of domestic violence, a family member in jail, a family member diagnosed with a mental illness, and the disappearance of a parent through divorce, death or abandonment. Each type of trauma counts as one. So a person who’s been physically abused, with one alcoholic parent, and a mother who was beaten up has an ACE score of three.

There are, of course, many other types of childhood trauma — racism, bullying, watching a sibling being abused, losing a caregiver (grandmother, mother, grandfather, etc.), homelessness, surviving and recovering from a severe accident, witnessing abuse between parents or grandparents, involvement with the foster care system, involvement with the juvenile justice system, etc. The ACE Study included only those 10 childhood traumas because those were mentioned as most common.

ACEs can disrupt a child’s development and can impact social, emotional and cognitive impairment, which can lead to poor health outcomes and can negatively impact life expectancy.  You can also imagine how significantly a high ACE score impacts their daily efforts in school.  

At the same time that the ACE Study was being done, parallel research on kids’ brains found that toxic stress physically damages a child’s developing brain. This was determined by a group of neuroscientists and pediatricians.

When children are overloaded with stress hormones, they’re in flight, fright or freeze mode. They can’t learn in school. They often have difficulty trusting adults or developing healthy relationships with peers.  This is a part of the very complicated world our students and staff navigate each day. I guess part of my motivation for sharing this information was to remind everyone of the old saying... Every one of us is fighting a battle that others can’t see.  Be kind to one another. That person that may be acting out, or seems irrational, may be carrying a heavy load and hasn’t built up their resilience to better handle their stress. The healthier we are as a community, the fewer of these ACEs our students need to experience!

As always, I want to end by sharing some positive feedback from a recent survey. This person wanted to recognize Sue Leadholm, one of our school counselors at the HS.  “Mrs. Leadholm is always positive and thinks of new and creative ways to support our student, she also supports me as a parent!” This is fantastic to hear and we appreciate Sue for so many reasons!

As always, if you have any questions about this, or anything else within the District, please don’t hesitate to reach out.  Thank you for all you do to support our students, and let’s show our Tiger Pride in all that we do!

Also, Happy Valentine’s Day!  I hope everyone feels the extra special warmth that comes from spending time with those you love!  

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