PHOTO: Dozens of organizations in Illinois are working to promote awareness of childhood trauma and better educate those who work with children on the issue.December 19, 2013

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Whether it’s a tornado, maltreatment, abuse or growing up in poverty, there are a variety of stressers that can lead to childhood trauma. Work is under way to better educate Illinois parents, policy and community leaders on the issue.Anne Studzinski, managing director of the Illinois Childhood Trauma Coalition at Voices for Illinois Children, said anyone who experiences a catastrophic event can develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but the emotional and physical toll is much worse for kids.”When something happens to a child of tender years, let’s say a 5-year-old, not only is it going to have an impact like we think of with PTSD, but it also has the potential to disrupt how that young brain develops,” she warned.That can lead to problems in learning, behavior and health that can have lifelong effects, Studzinski explained.The coalition includes 80 organizations, and for the past seven years has been developing strategies to prevent and treat childhood trauma in the state and integrating trauma-informed practices throughout professions that serve children and their families.

Studzinski said treating trauma can actually occur before it happens, by teaching youngsters how to respond to a stressful event.

“Everybody’s going to have something to overcome between birth and 25. So we want kids to build their resilience to overcome the hard times when the hard times come. Usually, we talk about that in terms of ‘protective factors’ or ‘universal intervention’ – things that you can do for all kids,” Studzinski said.

All children need to feel safe, she pointed out, and often that comes from a simple daily routine at home. She said it’s also important that children understand and recognize their own strengths, so when something bad happens, they are confident they can handle it.

“Part of growing up is learning how to overcome troubling things, whether it’s a bad grade or getting along with the kid who sits behind you in school, and knowing I have some strengths to prepare me how to overcome things,” she said.

One in four Illinois children younger than 17 report at least one type of serious childhood trauma, according to the National Survey of Children’s Health.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service – IL


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