MORRIS – Ryan was an eighth-grade boy who was having a rough day. When he got to school, he didn’t have his homework completed and his teacher took away his recess as a consequence.
Later in the morning, his desk-mate accidentally bumped into him, and Ryan punched him in the stomach in retaliation.
The teacher yelled at Ryan, telling him to stop, but Ryan began to kick and scream and throw chairs. He was sent to the principal’s office and given a five-day suspension for his behavior.
The scenario was presented Tuesday to a group of educators, social workers and mental health professionals at an event by Community Foundation of Grundy County at First Presbyterian Church in Morris.
Suzette Fromm Reed, Wytress Richardson and Claudia Pitts from National Louis University discussed and led workshops discussing a new field of study: Adverse Childhood Experiences.
It’s a selection of 10 events that
can happen in childhood that can have large effects on a person’s life down the road.
“A lot of research is based on a large study out of California from the last
20 years,” Reed said. “These 10 different things can impact a lot of things.”
There was a questionnaire to count how many adverse childhood experiences a person may have experienced, with some such as emotional, physical or sexual abuse by a parent or older member of the household or not having enough to eat or clothes to wear while growing up.
Others were having divorced parents, a household member go to prison or having a mentally ill or depressed household family member.
Knowing these experiences can help educators and caregivers in providing context to a child’s behavior. Ryan – not his real name, but a real case study Richardson said – had such context before his outburst at school.
Ryan comes from an under-resourced neighborhood and has witnessed ongoing domestic violence in his home.
The night before the outburst, his father beat his mother so badly she was injured.
A neighbor called the police and took his father away in handcuffs. Ryan slept little that night. The next morning a neighbor took him to school and the teacher punished him for not doing his homework.
Attendees at the event learned about recognizing the context of a child’s actions and also how to work with them and improve them, something called trauma-informed approach. Because ACEs can be many different things, there are many solutions.
“Everything we do, works,” Reed said.