As you probably know, April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Working to prevent child abuse is absolutely critical, but so is learning how to respond when abuse has already taken place.
If you’ve been following AK Child & Family for any recent amount of time, you are probably familiar with the “ACEs”—Adverse Childhood Experiences. Defining and analyzing these experiences helps us understand the extent of trauma a child may have endured, how that trauma affects the brain, and ultimately helps us navigate treating a child who has experienced them. From ACEs Too High (read the full article here):
“ACEs refers to the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study and subsequent surveys that show that most people in the U.S. have at least one ACE, and that people with an accumulation of childhood adversities — including divorce, racism, living with an alcoholic parent, and physical abuse — have a higher risk of adult onset of chronic health problems such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, suicide, and alcoholism. The ACE Study is part of ACEs science, which also includes the how toxic stress from ACEs damages children’s developing brains, has dire health consequences for children and adults (autoimmune diseases, cancer, heart disease and other chronic illness), can be passed on from generation to generation, and — the good news — can be healed by resilience-building practices, which range from therapy to integrating trauma-informed and resilience-building practices in schools, courts, and health care.”
Treating trauma can be tricky. It can be elusive and hard to pinpoint. In fact, identifying and arriving at the root of trauma is often the most challenging part. Where trauma is typically experienced through nonverbal sensation, sometimes recreating nonverbal expression in a positive environment, like creating art, can heal those wounds in ways traditional therapy cannot. As Heidi Durham writes in Education Week (here), “…creative expression is a way to access what children can’t see or say. It’s like a back door to healing.”
Last month, Zonta Club of Anchorage was kind enough to visit our Jesse Lee Campus and work with students in anticipation of the 2019 Choose Respect March that took place in downtown Anchorage on March 21, 2019. More specifically, the group facilitated an art project with students, asking them to creatively show what respect means to each of them. The artwork was displayed at Flattop Pizza during the program that followed the march.
This activity with Zonta Club of Anchorage was not presented as a form of therapy or treatment to students—it was just for fun. However, seeing student art is always a reminder to me of how much these students have been through, what they have overcome and what they want for their future—even if it’s a subject as simple as “respect.”
Together, whether our actions are preventive or a responsive, let’s continue to stand up against child abuse for children everywhere.
Please enjoy the original artwork by our talented students below.