Should All School Children Be Screened For Childhood Trauma?

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    California's first surgeon general Dr. Nadine Burke Harris has a dream to screen children for childhood trauma before entering schools in an attempt to help them process these experiences to avoid developmental issues.

  • Reflect On:
    • Is it time we take an entirely new societal and cultural approach to the emotional challenges we collectively face?

    • Is it time we take responsibility for state of the communities we live within?

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California’s first surgeon general, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, has an ambitious goal to screen every student for childhood trauma before entering school. Dr. Harris has dedicated her career to changing the way society views and responds to childhood trauma. This is a worthwhile effort as research shows childhood trauma affects brain development and it will build a society that is more empathetic to all and unique situations.

Why it matters: Some will feel this is not the job of state to determine this, and I agree. In the wrong hands this could appear to be a pharmaceutical nightmare, and another way for government to control children. But I still feel this discussion needs to happen. It’s the concept of focusing more deeply on trauma, not the government doing it, that excites me.

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That said, it appears Dr. Harris’ specifics are going in the right direction. Reframing ‘disorders’ doctors simply don’t seem to understand is an important step in helping kids.

“One thing that tipped me off was the number of kids being sent to me by schools — principals, teachers and administrators — with ADHD […] “What I found was that many of the kids were experiencing signs of adversity, and there seemed to be a strong association between adversity and the trauma they experienced and school functioning.”

– Dr Nadine Burke Harris

Already, Dr. Harris’ research team has found that kids who had experienced severe trauma were 32 times more likely to be diagnosed with learning and behavioural problems than kids who had not. Further pointing to the fact that many of the challenges we face in society come from challenging times and emotions that never get processed.

We live in a time where emotional intelligence and self-awareness are extremely undeveloped across the globe, and this is not being taught to enough people, especially at a young age. Further, when do we learn how to process traumatic or stressful experiences growing up? Much of our society is built upon suppressing how we feel or identifying as victims should something occur. But rarely are we processing the experience and allowing ourselves to ‘move on’ from the experience.

The Takeaway: There is no doubting the fact that we need more community in our world. And while people doubt the creation of community in the wrong hands, it doesn’t mean all have nefarious intentions. Raising awareness about topics such as this whereby a leader truly feels that blanket statements like ADHD don’t really tell us anything about a child and we must look deeper, is a great thing!

Imagine a world where education and societal culture did focus on things like emotional intelligence and helping people process their challenging experiences? We all know telling someone to just ‘buck up and let it go’ hasn’t brought us to a good space, perhaps it’s time for an entire cultural shift? This, after all, has been what we have been creating in our work at Collective Evolution for the last 13 years.

“When you have a whole community making real change, you can have a big and lasting change.”

– Dr. Nadine Burke Harris

Looking deeper: Currently, the approach to children who are ‘problems’ in school is to get rid of them or medicate them. In fact, there are over 20 million schoolchildren who are being prescribed stimulants and psychotropic drugs according to Citizens Commission on Human Rights. Most of the public is not even aware of this. While big pharma profits huge with an unconscious approach to these challenges, society suffers greatly.

It’s truly time for something different, and all you have to ask yourself is are we capable of creating more peace within our youth and society? If yes, a new approach is needed.

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