NORTH WALES >> Representatives of about 40 Bucks and Montgomery County social services, government and educational organizations took part in Bucks-Mont Collaborative’s July 18 round table “Preventing Early Childhood Trauma” discussion.
“You represent a wide swath of organizations serving children and their families,” said Ella Roush, Bucks-Mont Collaborative’s coordinator, “and others of you are caring for children as they reach school age and you see the aftermath of either good enough or not good enough care for these children.”
In the past four years, Bucks-Mont Collaborative, in partnership with Lakeside Global Institute and United Way of Greater Philadelphia & Southern New Jersey, has provided trauma training for more than 500 people, she said.
“Of course we’ll continue to want to be part of the healing from trauma, but how much better would it be for our children, our families, our society, if we focused more attention on prevention?” Roush said.
Trauma is at the core of many social ills, Gerry Vassar, Lakeside’s president and CEO, said. The effects of trauma often hold people in poverty, Erin Connolly, trauma initiative manager at the United Way of Greater Philadelphia & Southern New Jersey, said.
“We know two hours will barely scratch the surface of this conversation, but it’s a start,” Roush said as the roundtable started at Lakeside Global Institute’s North Wales offices.
The human brain has about 2.5 quadrillion electrical charges per minute, Diane Wagenhals, Lakeside’s program director, said, and young children’s brains are more active than those of older children or adults.
“They come out not all wired,” Wagenhals said. “They have all these neurons, but they need wiring and the way wiring happens is it happens through outside stimulation.”
That comes from families and others who interact with the child, she said.
“Trauma is any kind of experience where the brain is feeling like the person is in such danger that they have to do the fight-or-flight response,” Wagenhals said.
Infants and toddlers can’t do either of those, though, she said.
“Most of them can’t walk yet, so they can’t actually run away from danger and how good are they at fighting,” Wagenhals said, “so they have primarily the freeze response, the shut down response.”
Along with that, stress responses are triggered, she said.
“Out of that come children who are not really ready or able to learn because when your system is all jazzed up, it’s called becoming disregulated,” she said.
The child has difficulty thinking and managing emotions and impulses, she said.
“It’s not that they’re not trying. It’s not that they’re bad,” Wagenhals said. “Something happened to them.”
The three R’s of attempting to counter that are regulate, relate, reason, she said.
“Learning how to regulate children is essential,” she said.
Relationships are where healing and growing take place, she said.
Regulating and relating leads to reasoning, “where you can do the thinking, where you can do the processing, and be at your optimum,” she said.
In today’s isolated society, people often don’t have the relationships that previous generations had, where people learned about parenting from other parents, such as neighbors or people at church, Roush said.
“That’s not available to a large percent of the population today, so it’s great to be thinking about what are other ways we can deliver that same kind of service,” she said.
Wagenhals also told the group about the neurosequential model of therapeutics (NMT) and neurosequential model for education (NME).
“It’s about repairing the brain and healing the brain,” she said. “It’s not just intervening when there’s some kind of crisis.”
In closing, she reminded those in attendance that while some people look for a Superman to solve problems, that won’t happen, but that doesn’t mean the problems can’t be remedied.
“We all need to take on that responsibility, which I hear people eager to do,” Wagenhals said. “Please know that we are they and that together, we’re going to make a difference and we can do this.”
Information on Bucks-Mont Collaborative is available at www.bucksmontcollab.org.