Dr. Judith Romano educated students on how to help people dealing with the physical and psychological effects of childhood trauma in a presentation in the Gentile Gallery on Oct. 5.
Romano, the national speaker on children’s issues and director of Wheeling Hospital’s Center for Pediatrics, spoke on Adverse Childhood Events (ACEs), which are traumatic circumstances in a child’s early years in the forms of abuse, neglect and household dysfunction. Children who experience more ACEs are likely to have problematic behavior, which can last into adulthood and have tragic effects on their physical and mental health.
“What happens in early childhood doesn’t stay in early childhood,” said Romano.“What happens actually affects health, productivity, everything about the human condition and what a human being becomes.”
ACEs cause toxic stress, Romano said, which “activates the stress response in the body … in the absence of protective relationships, in the absence of things that are going to support the child or person.” The stress of trauma can leave children unable to deal with everyday stressors and leads to increased mental and bodily illnesses, said Romano.
The way for children to succeed, Romano explained, is “a stable, caring environment.” Speaking especially to students who plan to work with children in the future, Romano explained, “Resiliency is very much based on relationships. Here’s where I really want you to think about the effect that we can have to ameliorate and mitigate ACEs.” By creating safe spaces for children, she said, educators can help them recover and build coping skills.
The Chiron Student Advisory, a student group for education majors, organized the event. Chiron member Ariel Morales, a junior studying early childhood education, said, “I thought it was a beautiful representation of how we as future people in the workplace can really look at those children that we’re going to be working with and take into account all the factors of their early childhood as they grow up and how that affects them. It was amazing.”
“For me, it explained the science behind why we should bring Christ’s love to other people,” said freshman Eloisa Gutierrez.“Because it’s not only a spiritual and emotional gain that we give to them but a psychological one.”