What is ACE?
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are stressful or traumatic events, including abuse and neglect. Nearly 35 million children suffer from ACEs. Unfortunately, there is no universal screening test to help identify and provide the necessary treatment to a child affected by ACEs. Overcoming childhood trauma in adulthood can be difficult and hence needs to addressed immediately.
Contrary to common belief, childhood adversity and toxic stress affect a child irrespective of his age. A child is unable to verbalize and express its reactions or fully process this experience and this manifests as ACE. Which may lead to disrupted neurodevelopment, social, emotional and cognitive impairment, health-risk behaviours such as substance abuse or acts of violence, adult diseases, disability, social problems, and even early death. Over time a child may often adopt negative coping mechanisms
Categories of ACE:
- Abuse: includes physical, emotional and sexual abuse to a child caused by an adult
- Neglect: which can be physical or emotional
- Household dysfunction: this can be presented or caretaker experiences domestic violence, abuses alcohol or drugs, suffers from mental illness, becomes incarcerated or separates from or divorces the parent or caretaker.
The way forward
The National Pediatric Practice Community (NPPC), an initiative of the Centre for Youth Wellness, is raising awareness and encouraging pediatric primary care providers to integrate universal ACEs screenings into their practices.
With children, it is often difficult to detect whether a child is experiencing abuse, neglect or any household dysfunction. Screening allows the primary care provider to ask the children a set of questions in a safe environment. This helps identify whether the child is suffering from an adverse childhood experience before they begin to show obvious signs.
It is pertinent that the paediatricians administer these screenings to children. So they can provide the child with guidance and the tools they need before it affects them in the long haul. Overcoming childhood trauma in adulthood is a very long haul. Therefore, United Healthcare has collaborated with the Center for Youth Wellness and Optum Health Education to host webinars. These, help educate not only paediatricians and other primary care providers on ACEs but also psychologists, teachers, social workers and anyone associated with the child for free. These webinars share all the information one needs to know about the adverse childhood experiences and its lasting effects.
The greater a child’s terror, and the earlier it is experienced, the harder it becomes to develop a strong and healthy sense of self. So let’s keep it in mind and pay attention to children all around us and catch the signs of ACE early.
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