I was thinking in particular of a little girl in my 3rd grade room who struggled academically more than any of my other students. Melissa was clearly very bright, but just didn't seem to care about school. She had already been held back a grade. One afternoon I opened up her classroom journal and saw that she had written, over and over: "I HATE MYSELF."
Scrawled in big, block letters, her words filled the page. After reading them, it was clear to me; why should she care about school if she didn't care about herself? I knew her basic needs, emotional and physical, weren't being met at home. Melissa was constantly hearing the message that she was not good enough.
My peer's argument was that no matter what, everybody has to give life their best shot. And if they don't, regardless of the circumstances, it's their own fault. "I don't care what you grow up with. Life is what you make it," he informed me. It was hard to argue with him.
There is a large amount of information and research that says otherwise. One of the most recent and comprehensive is the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente collaborated to study over 17,000 people and their experience of childhood as it related to later health and wellness as adults. The results were dramatic and eye-opening.
Each person was assigned a score which measured their number of adverse childhood experiences such as substance abuse in the home, physical and emotional abuse, neglect, divorce, or mental illness of a family member. What the research shows is the higher the ACE score, the higher the risk for a number of health problems later in life including, depression, addiction, domestic violence and heart disease.
The CDC website sums it up with the following statement:
Progress in preventing and recovering from the nation's worst health and social problems is likely to benefit from understanding that many of these problems arise as a consequence of adverse childhood experiences.By the time they reach adulthood, we are desperately trying to put band-aids on the wounds that people have acquired throughout the course of their lives. The ACE Study shines a light on the absolute necessity of providing help and support to children sooner rather than later.
I often wonder what happened to Melissa. The school tried to intervene on more than one occasion, but without the proper resources, it proved to be difficult. At the tender age of nine-years-old, her wounds were already beginning to bleed.
For more information on the ACE Study, check out the following websites: