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This week the reading is one long story which was published in four parts. Long but worth the read.
Danielle’s story illustrates the dangerous and long lasting effects of neglect on the brain, the body and the spirit. How brain patterns set early in life lead to behaviors that can haunt a person into adolescence and beyond. Without intervention, the impacts of early childhood neglect are debilitating and contagious, spreading from parent to child for generations. But advances in brain science and in our understanding of trauma have begun to shed new light on the causes and effects of neglect and these insights offer hope to kids and adults who, like Danielle, were denied a safe, supportive upbringing. The latest science tells us that while the consequences of neglect are serious, they need not be permanent.
The ACES test was developed in 1998 by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and Kaiser Permanente in San Diego who were trying to find out whether childhood stress led to health problems later in life. The test consists of 10 “yes or no” questions designed to screen for exposure to violence, sexual abuse and neglect: “Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often … act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt? Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? Did you often or very often feel that you didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? Or your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you?”
“What’s so clear in the research is that there are biological, neurological or brain chemistry consequences to the way in which a child is managed or treated,” says Trupin. “The nice thing is that [the consequences are] not immutable. We have a body of evidence that shows you can bring about change.” That change, says Trupin, depends on schooling professionals about which interventions are effective, then making sure those interventions are available to children and their families. “We really need to increase access [for kids and families],” he says, “and train the professional workforce in these skills.”
Neglected kids, for example, may not act their age. They might need to be rocked to sleep at night like a baby; they may have never learned to associate positive feelings with touch. “It’s almost like taking it from the beginning again,” says Wiester, about parenting neglected children. “You just have to redo it.”