Childhood, Trauma and Historical Trauma

The neonatal intensive care unit staff tried everything they had learned at medical school to save the life of one twin born prematurely. They placed the twins in separate incubators to minimize the risk of infection but expressed doubt that both would make it.

When one of the twins showed signs of stress three weeks later, Nurse Gayle Kasparian urged the doctors to place the twins in one incubator.  This thing had never been tried in the country before therefore it was not allowed in 1995 at Medical Center of Central Massachusetts-Memorial.

Nurse Kasparian went against the rules and placed both babies together. Then something amazing happened: the “healthier of the two threw an arm over her sister, immediately stabilizing her sister’s heart and temperature. They both left the hospital healthy.”

They remain healthy today.

I attended Echo Parenting’s Working with Childhood Trauma training on October 11th where Louise Godbold, the organization’s Executive Director, told this story to an audience of representatives from intervention, prevention, education and legal counseling organizations working with young children and their families in the county.

Godbold provided an overview of the following concepts:

  • Trauma and complex trauma
  •  Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and incidence of heart disease, chronic depression, suicide, alcoholism, and rape
  • Brain development
  • Stress, toxic stress and resilience
  • The vagus nerve and the rescuing hug
  • High cortisol in children, pregnant and new mothers
  • Trauma response and other manifestations of trauma (symptoms like sensitivity to light, sound and movement, dislike of crowds or open spaces, anger, feeling lonely, dizziness)
  • Normal responses to abnormal events
  • Regulation and strategies
  • Resilience Zone
  • Window of Tolerance
  • Common triggers that bump people outside of their resilience zone
  • Trauma Informed Care (TI-C) Principals
  • Post-Traumatic Growth
  • Social and Historical ACEs

The ACEs original survey didn’t include the perspective of social and historical ACEs, including all forms of oppression, and provided a short list of other ACEs. Goldbold explained that this list has been informed by the experiences of participants at Echo’s trauma trainings and non-violent parenting classes. It is also the focus of their 2017 Changing the Paradigm Conference viewing trauma through a social justice lens, it includes:

  • Poverty
  • Homelessness
  • Community Violence
  • Racism
  • Homophobia
  • Forced separation (deportation)
  • Bullying

Goldbold presented an Extended ACEs Pyramid developed by RYSE that includes a Historical Trauma/Embodiment lens. This will be Echo’s topic at the Changing the Paradigm Conference in 2017.

A deeper understanding of the systems of oppression from eventful to institutionalized racism, classism, sexism, ableism, ageism, adultism, homophobia; and an understanding of violence and gender discrimination can help us better understand the relations between childhood adversity and the resulting overall health through adulthood. Understanding the intersectionality of these systems and individuals can help us develop new professional guidelines for equity relations and future funding opportunities.

Image: ACEs Pyramid compared to Extended ACEs Pyramid developed by RYSE Center

Extended Pyramid.jpg




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