Brain Changers: New Udemy Course is on the Way!

Did you know that traumatic childhood experiences are considered to be an important public health crisis in the United States?  Do you know that most of us will experience trauma at some point and that 46% of children will experience a traumatic event before the age of 18? Trauma that happens earlier in life has the potential to have the most devastating consequences on brain development.  I believe it’s crucial that we all increase our awareness of the biological impact of trauma on children and I would love to share some information with you!

I just hit submit on my second Udemy course “Brain Changers: The Biological Impact of Early Childhood Trauma on Brain Development and Social-Emotional Functioning.”  The course is still in review so I am offering it here for FREE until it’s final approval.  I expect that this coupon code should be good for about the next 72 hours or so until that happens.  Join the class now to get lifetime access to all of the valuable information completely free.  As I update and change the course over time, you will automatically receive all of the new materials too – completely free if you join now!

If you missed out on this one, be sure to sign up for my newsletter.  I promise I won’t spam you – I’m not sure what I would say anyways! – but I also promise that newsletter subscribers will always get first crack at all of my new courses – FREE – before they’re available in the marketplace.  I have at least two more courses planned for 2015 so there’s lots more great content coming up! Have ideas for a great course? Drop me a line and let me know!

**EDIT** I didn’t realize that Udemy had changed the rules and that courses are no longer able to be offered when they are still in draft mode.  The good news is that the course was approved today and I have updated the links.  I have decided to keep the coupon links live until May 9 as a token of my appreciation for being an awesome blog reader.  I am really excited about this course – please take advantage of the coupon offer and check it out! 

More Startling ACES Outcomes

As we discussed in the last post, adverse childhood experiences are very common and destructive.  An ACE score of 4 or more is considered to be a threshold at which negative outcomes increase exponentially.  To illustrate this point further, consider these facts:

  • Depression – With an ACE score of 4 or more, an individual is 460% more likely to be suffering from depression.
  • Suicide – With 4 or more ACES, the Sad Childrisk of attempted suicide increased 1220%. With an ACE score of 7 or more, risk of suicide increases 3000%. 2/3 of all suicide attempts, 64% of adult suicide attempts, and 80% of child and adolescent suicide attempts have been shown to be directly related to adverse childhood experiences.
  • Smoking – a very serious health risk behavior. With an ACE score of 6 or more, an individual is 250% more likely to be an adult smoker, which in turn contributes to an increase in negative health outcomes.
  • Alcohol – In 2/3 of all individuals suffering from alcoholism, the addiction is directly attributed to childhood trauma. Teens who have issues with drugs and alcohol are 6-12x more likely to have been physically abused and 18-21% more likely to have been sexually abused. Also, 75% of all women is drug and alcohol treatment programs have been sexually abused at some point in their life.
  • IV drug use – A boy with an ACE score of 6 or more, has a has a 4600% increased risk of becoming an IV drug user later in life. In 78% of women who use IV drugs, their drug use is directly attributed to childhood trauma.
  • Rape – A women with an ACE score of 4 or more is 900% more likely to be a victim of rape.
  • Domestic violence – A women with an ACE score of 4 or more is also 500% more likely to be a victim of domestic violence.
  • Mortality – People with an ACE score of 6 or more have an average life expectancy of 60 compared to people with an ACE score of 0 who have an average life expectancy of 79. A high number of adverse childhood experiences effectively reduces life expectancy by almost 20 years. One reason for this is the increase in negative health outcomes associated with ACES due to suppression of the immune system and toxic environments.

The Incidence of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES)

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study began in 1995 at Kaiser Permanente in California with the goal of determining what impact, if any, negative experiences during childhood had on adult health outcomes. The initial study included over 17,000 participants and is still actively tracking health outcomes for those individuals today. The participants were all given a physical exam and a confidential survey that assessed childhood experiences as well as current heath information. The researchers used that data to determine how adverse childhood experiences were related to health outcomes in adulthood.

Adverse childhood experiences (ACES) are defined in 10 categories of experience up to 18 years old:

  1. Childhood abuse – can be emotional, physical, or sexual
  2. Childhood neglect – can be emotional or physical
  3. Growing up witnessing – domestic violence, substance abuse, mental illness, loss of a parent (divorce, separation, abandonment, death), crime (incarceration)

What did the researchers find? First of all adverse childhood experiences are incredibly common:

Almost 2/3 of the participants in the study reported at least one ACE.

  • Of people who have at least one ACE, most – 87% – have more than one.
  • 22% of study participants reported sexual abuse.
  • More than one in every 5 participants had an ACE score of 3 or more.
  • Four or more ACES is considered to be a threshold above which there is a particularly higher risk of negative physical and mental health outcomes. For example, with 4 or more ACES, the risk of chronic pulmonary lung disease is increased by 390%, hepatitis 240%, and depression 460%. Risk of suicide increases 1220%. Nationally, the data at this threshold level is lowest in NJ and NY and highest in Oklahoma, Montana, and West Virginia.
  • Women are 50% more likely than men to have 5 or more ACES.

The most common ACE in the study was physical abuse. 28% of study participants reported that they had been physically abused as a child. This was followed by parental substance abuse, which was reported by 27% of participants. 23% of participants experienced the loss of a parent. 21% of participants experienced sexual abuse on at least one occasion. 17% lived with a parent who was suffering from mental illness. 15% experienced emotional neglect and 13% lived in a home where they witnessed domestic violence. 11% of participants reported psychological abuse and 10% experienced physical neglect. The least common ACE studied was having an incarcerated parent, with 6% of study participants reporting this experience.

It is also important to note again, that the presence of one ACE dramatically increases the risk level for subsequent ACES to also be present. For example, if no one in the family abuses alcohol, there is about a 15% likelihood of sexual abuse. If one parent abuses alcohol, that risk increases to about 30%. If there are two or more individuals in the home who abuse alcohol the risk that sexual abuse is also present jumps to 45%.

In addition to being incredibly common, ACES are incredibly destructive. ACES are associated across the lifespan with increased emotional problems, more health risk behaviors, serious social problems, adult disease and disability, increased health, behavioral health, correctional and social services costs, and poor life expectancy. The number of ACES has a linear relationship with every outcome that has been studied up to this point. The higher one’s ACE score, the higher risk for every negative outcome. Some examples, ACES are shown to increase the risk of heart disease, chronic lung disease, liver disease, suicide, HIV and other STDs, drug and alcohol abuse, depression.aces

One in Five: A Children’s Mental Health Epidemic

One in Five: A Children’s Mental Health Epidemic

Over half of all Americans will experience a mental health disorder at some point in their life. Most of these will originate in childhood. Symptoms of mental health disorders often begin as early as preschool or even before. Mental illness in adulthood is correlated with higher rates of substance abuse, homelessness, incarceration, unemployment and suicide. Research has shown that interventions in early childhood are more likely to be effective and also to have a cumulative effect when paired with continuing intervention throughout the life span. For this reason, it is important that we all work together to increase awareness of this issue and take the steps necessary to provide help as early as possible.

No matter what your personal or professional background is, you are very likely to come across a child at some point in time who has a diagnosable mental illness. According to a recent publication by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC, in any given year up to 20% of children in the United States are suffering from a diagnosable mental health disorder. 20% is equal to one in every five children. Data also shows that this number is consistently increasing from year to year. However, in spite of this high number, we also know that about 2/3 of children who need mental health services do not receive them. This lack of engagement in treatment leads to a significant under-reporting of the actual incidence of mental health disorders in childhood.

Knowing that 2/3 of children who would benefit from mental health services do not receive them leads us to the question of why that might be. There are three main categories of barriers to mental health care for children. The first category consists of structural barriers. This category includes lack of providers, long waitlists, lack of insurance, the cost of services even with insurance, lack of transportation, and inconvenient or inaccessible services. The second category is barriers related to perceptions about mental health problems. Included in this category is an inability by parents, teachers, or medical providers to determine a child’s need for services, denial of the severity of the problem, and the belief that the problem will resolve on its own. The third category is barriers related to perceptions about mental health services. Examples of this include lack of trust in mental health providers, previous negative experiences with mental health services, a child who doesn’t want help, and the stigma associated with mental health services.

Welcome to Reflecting Relationships

Welcome to Reflecting Relationships

Reflecting (verb) 1. to case back (light, heat, sound, etc.) from a surface. 2. to give back or show an image of; mirror.

Relationship (noun) 1. a connection, association, or involvement. 2. connection between persons by blood or marriage. 3. an emotional or other connection between people.

Within the field of infant mental health, it is generally acknowledged that all learning and development occurs within the context of an infant’s relationships with their caregivers. Within the broader context of life, it can be acknowledged that most of our experiences are shaped and influenced by the important relationships we have with others in our lives. The context of social-emotional development in infancy and early childhood sets the stage for all relationships that follow. It is critical, then that we, as individuals and collectively on a societal level, acknowledge the importance of healthy relationship development from the earliest stages of infancy.

For professional who work with families with young children, it is essential to have the reflective capacity to mirror back to the caregiver aspects of the relationship with the child. This skill on the part of the professional can help families learn how to better meet their child’s unique social-emotional needs. For families, it is important to develop reflective capacity to continuously reflect upon and make changes to the parent/child relationship. In order to do this successfully, parents must have an understanding of their own subconscious ideas about relationships.

The primary goal of this site will be to explore issues related to infant and childhood mental health and social-emotional development. I will address these issues in the context of the caregiver-child relationship, acknowledging that each party in any relationship is a unique individual who brings unique characteristics to each interaction. At Reflecting Relationships, our mission is to ensure that all infants and toddlers have the opportunity to build a healthy foundation in life. This is accomplished by providing high-quality consultation and training to professionals, parents, and policymakers whose decisions directly affect our youngest citizens.