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Looking at ACEs through Trauma Informed Lens


Brains aren’t just formed and its structure for development in early childhood is determined by more than just our genes,  they are also built based on our experiences. Early childhood experiences can affect the development and physical architecture of our brain, which provides the foundation for future learning, behavior and health.

Think about building something that will last through time. We would usually focus on a strong foundation and connect the rest of the structure from that foundation. Similarly, a weak foundational structure of the brain can compromise brain development, that will have a negative impact into adulthood.

The brain needs a strong foundation to build on, for a child’s future developments. Therefore, positive experiences & negative experiences have a great impact on a child’s growth, development and mental health as an adult.

Heathy attachment and active communication plays a key role in creating a positive experience for a child’s growth. Positive and healthy interactions with safe care-givers play a pivotal role in building a healthy brain.

Another great way that builds brain development is (believe it or not) Stress. Good stress or “healthy stress” stretches a child’s comfort zone and provides means for a healthy brain development. Some examples of good stress would be preparing for exams, meeting new people, learning something new that is challenging. These can be excellent tools to help children prepare for future adversities.

A prolonged exposure to stress at high levels for a significant amount of time, without adequate attachment & support, results in toxic stress. More on toxic stress in this link ( The lack of support, affection and encouragement can mean rejection & abandonment, which is essentially emotional abuse. These forms of adverse childhood experiences lead to the breakdown of basic structures in a child’s brain.

An going intense experience of toxic stress can overwhelm our ability to cope. Trauma is the impact of these forms of high level stress. Coping mechanisms and living in “survival mode” is something most trauma survivors have mastered. Most of us do not know we are carrying with us the impact of our adverse childhood experiences. Toxic Stress while evident in our relationships, emotional responses and physiology, is most times left undetected or dealt with.

A person struggling with trauma is “left with a host of intense responses and symptoms that ‘tell the story’ without words and without the knowledge that we are remembering events and feelings from long ago,” says Janina Fisher, PhD, therapist, author and educator.

Trauma Informed Care assumes that everyone has had some exposure or have been impacted by trauma at some point of their lives. When we see a person through trauma informed lenses, we are then preparing ourselves to  recognise the potential triggers and trauma symptoms in a person. We are therefore acknowledging the role of trauma in a person’s life, that will reflect in their reactions, decision making and their daily routine.

What does this mean for us as friends, colleagues, leaders, bosses and family members. We must remember to consider the potential widespread impact, as well as understand the many paths one may need for recovery from trauma.

Knowing that will point us to recognising signs & symptoms of trauma while we have in place within our structures, policies and practices, responses that fully intergrade knowledge about trauma that actively resist re-traumatisation.

Trauma Informed Care is a framework that includes:

  • Understanding the impact and prevalence of trauma caused by adverse childhood experiences
  • Creating a safe space physically & emotionally and integrating knowledge about trauma within work structures, community environment, policies, practices and conflict resolutions
  • Building and cultivating an environment of trust
  • Providing care that is inclusive & sensitive to promote a sense of belonging
  • Each person feeling safe to choose and be empowered to collaborate & participate
  • Cultivating secure attachments that is safe and trauma informed

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