Wisconsin is experiencing a push to adopt trauma-centered programs, and University of Wisconsin is filling in the blanks with its own research.
After the Adverse Childhood Experiences study was conducted in 1995-97, agencies and facilities noticed the strong correlation between trauma and health issues.
The ACE study opened the door to how trauma impacts people’s medical and physical health, which encouraged many programs to look into incorporating trauma care into their services, said Laura Sabick, a program manager at Madison-based ARC Community Services, a private and non-profit agency providing family and community-based care to women and their children.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, the study required participants take a survey that asked questions focused on childhood maltreatment and family dysfunction, as well as items detailing their current health status and behaviors. The higher their ACE Score, the more stress and trauma the child experienced.
Sabick said before adopting trauma recovery programs in its facilities, ARC mainly focused on substance abuse and mental health recovery because that was what they were licensed for. Now, she said, most of the clinic’s programs contain some sort of trauma care component.
“[For example], we use Seeking Safety, developed for women who struggle with substance abuse and trauma, because we have recognized that many of the women abuse substances to cope with trauma,” Sabick said.
Sabick said as women get further into their treatment, ARC slowly starts the process to recover past trauma. Without looking at trauma, she said, it is very difficult for women to be successful in their recovery.
The ACE study helped bring awareness to treating trauma in classrooms, as well. Research regarding the way trauma affects children continues to develop.
Travis Wright, a professor in the department of curriculum and instruction at UW, is conducting research on homeless children who experience chronic stress and develop post traumatic stress disorder. He said it is important to consider how trauma affects how children learn and relate to each other.
Wright is also bringing trauma care into schools to help teachers understand how kids learn and respond. He said kids who grow up with trauma struggle to make predictions, so when teachers ask them to make predictions or manage their behavior, they see the kids as having learning problems.
“Right now, the kids with bad behavior are punished or told to control it, which makes the kids feel bad,” Wright said. “They become more traumatized by punishment, so we’re helping teachers see bad response as not bad behavior, but a response from past experiences.”