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What are ACES?

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) relate to a range of traumatic experiences in childhood that have demonstrable impact on future health, mental wellbeing and life chances.

These include:

  • Abuse – sexual, physical and/or emotional
  • Neglect
  • A parent or parents with mental health conditions
  • Abandonment of a parent through divorce or separation
  • A traumatic event such as displacement or a terror attack
  • A member of the family spending time in prison
  • Parent or parents with alcohol or drug abuse problems

Whether or not the child has memories of the traumatic event or circumstances evidence shows these experiences still have an impact on the mind and body, leading to health problems later in life. In effect, the trauma imbeds itself physiologically. Attainment levels at school and later in life are also affected.

Children who have suffered from ACEs are more likely to:

  • Smoke
  • Drink heavily
  • Develop type 2 diabetes
  • Develop heart disease
  • Be incarcerated at some point
  • Become morbidly obese

Though not restricted to any one set of demographics, ACEs are likelier to be experienced in areas of deprivation. Overcoming them is not impossible but is complex, requiring hard work and multiple involvement from agencies, government policy and communities.

Teachers are not expected to manage these themselves, however a supportive learning environment is particularly helpful for vulnerable children. Schools should have clear processes for children who are suspected of being, or who are, vulnerable to ACEs, including communicating with external agencies as appropriate.

If you’d like further information, we recommend the following resources:

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