March 06, 2019.

When we think of the ways that a child learns to interact with the world, we tend to focus on positive, progressive experiences, such as reaching cognitive milestones or nurturing good physical habits. Tragically, the factors that affect a young child’s brain development, along with academic and life achievement are not always positive. Traumatic experiences including abuse and neglect can have a devastating effect on the lives of those with distressed childhoods, often well into adulthood. The good news? With the proper diagnosis, understanding, and support, there is hope for a healthy future.

“We know that trauma affects a child’s brain development,” states Renee Day, Special Projects Manager for the North Orange County Regional Consortium (NOCRC). “There is an insurmountable amount of data and evidence to support this.

“Understanding how trauma affects the brain is the first step to creating a trauma-informed community of learning. We need to understand how these children receive and process information based on the way their brains function.”

The complex relationship among adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), academic persistence, and success is still largely misunderstood, as are many of the specific behavioral patterns that predict these traumas. Often thought to be an issue affecting only poorer socio-economic communities, an American Academy of Pediatrics study of 17,000 middle-class Americans suggests that some 60 percent of adults are hindered by childhood trauma in some way.

“It seems like it’s this secret that’s being kept,” says Jamie De La Mora, whose interest in the subject led her to attend last November’s Building Trauma-Informed Communities of Learning conference, presented by the NOCRC’s Supporting Adults for Student Success (SASS) Workgroup. The event brought together parents, teachers, social workers, and others like De La Mora who have personal and professional interests in strengthening support for learners with distressed childhoods.

“It’s so great to have new information and meaningful tools that will positively impact my work,” the counseling student says about her experience at the conference.

The two-day conference included a presentation on understanding ACEs, information and tools for developing trauma-informed solutions, and viewing of a film titled Resiliency. Author and childhood development expert Nancy Thomas delivered the keynote. On the first day, attendees focused on identifying and understanding systemic adverse circumstances and how they play into academic and social performance. The second day focused on building solutions for promoting communities of support at all levels of interaction.

“Creating a trauma-informed environment for children with traumatic pasts overwhelmingly increases their chances of achieving [success],” says Day. “This conference provided critical information to parents, educators, administrators, counselors, therapists, social workers, and caregivers to serve as catalysts to create an environment that allows these children to thrive, grow, and heal.”

Thomas’s presentation, informed by more than 40 years of experience working with individuals with emotional disorders, provided a broad spectrum of hope as she recounted stories of “rewiring brains” and transforming lives through the power of trauma-informed communities of support.

“She was incredible. Authentic, empowering, and inspiring,” adds De La Mora of Thomas. “With so much valuable insight and experience, she gave us hope because of the success she has experienced with her methods.”

For NOCRC, a higher education consortium focused on improving adult education outcomes in North Orange County, the work being done in the area of understanding and overcoming trauma-induced impairments supports its overall mission.

“The long-term goal is to help individuals heal so that they can achieve all their goals, including

For more information about the SASS-sponsored classes, including Parenting the Love and Logic Way®, Nine Essential Skills to the Love and Logic Classroom®, Love and Logic: Supporting Youth with Challenging Pasts®, Love and Logic: Supporting Youth with Special Needs®, and Love and Logic: Early Childhood Parenting Made Fun! ®, contact Renee Day, SASS Special Projects Manager, at 714-568-7907.