* * NOWHERE TO HIDE * * Ashley’s “Normal” Education? Part 1



Ashley’s education includes, her parents’ divorce, her stepfather’s mental health issues, her mother’s angry abuse, her grandmother’s alcoholism and living every day in one of the highest violence and crime neighborhoods in our city.

Three+ adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), before the age of eight.


Brain science informs us that Ashley, and millions of others like her,  won’t “just get over it.”

Researchers find that unaddressed stress and fear from developmental trauma change the physical architecture of the developing brain.

The changes to the physical brain damage children’s memory systems, their ability to think, and to organize multiple priorities (“executive function”), and hence to learn, particularly literacy skills.

Developmental trauma can include physical, emotional and sexual abuse, physical and emotional neglect, a missing parent (due to separation, divorce, incarceration, death), living in a household with substance abuse, violence, or mental illness and more.

It frustrates Ashley as much as it frustrates us.

It’s been urgent.

Now, this year Ashley endured a shocking, high stress, high fear home “invasion” by police with loud radio dispatchers and high-intensity red-lights spinning and flashing, all at  one a.m..    Ashley’s deepest personal scars came from seeing and hearing the horror of her stepfather break her little brother’s leg with a baseball bat…

Ashley came to school the next day.

Ashley is not unusual.

Two out of 3 children have some level of trauma-impact.  Experts describe it as a ‘national crisis’, an ‘epidemic’.  Yet, it’s the “elephant in the [class]room!”

When calm, Ashley can be bright and engaging.

In school, however, Ashley is a year behind.  She struggles to focus during reading class.    She alternates between silent “spaciness” and aggressive vocal opposition.

All typical measures of academics drop significantly from impacts of developmental trauma, based on a plethora of research (links below):  GPA down, ‘standardized test’ scores down, IQ scores down, non-cognitive skills down, attendance down, graduation rates down.

Ashley lives in an urban area where violence, trauma and ACE rates are even higher than the shocking rates in suburbia . Children of color comprise 90% of her school.    So one measure does go up:   her  district’s achievement gap.

Still,  we look in the wrong places to understand Ashley and the millions like her and their education “results”:    comparisons to “national standards” (with unequal local funding), and meaningless ‘standardized (SES) scores’.

Ashley’s poor academic results directly reflect her ongoing and unaddressed, developmental trauma.

Making Ashley feel safe, physically, emotionally, socially and more is crucial.   Ashley’s academic results will continue to suffer and will probably decline further until we help address her fears.

Individual “504 Plans” are not a solution, given the wide scope and the systemic changes required.


Schools are not trauma-informed.

Experts describe childhood trauma as a ‘national crisis’, an ‘epidemic’.  Meanwhile, Ashley is losing her right to equal access.  Equal Access to an education.

It’s morally wrong.
It’s urgent.
Trauma-Informed adults CAN make a difference.


Get Informed.  Click on links below.



“Like” us at “Trauma-Informed Schools” on Facebook


 This is only Part 1 of Ashley’s struggle with Trauma’s damage.

Cognitive impacts are  only 1 part of trauma’s damage.  Neurobiology reveals that nature also fuels  social hyper-vigilance,  a second equally powerful impact on Ashley.

The social and behavioral impacts may be worse…

CLICK HERE for Part 2, the social part of Ashley’s struggle.    “Nowhere to Hide:   Ashley’s “Normal” Education?” , Part 2.           


Toxic stress changes brain architecture                        CLICK HERE        (2 minute video)  

.Exposure to Violence: Psychological and Academic Correlates       (to GPA)                                                                                            CLICK HERE 


Violence Exposure, Trauma, and IQ and/or Reading Deficits            (IQ: Wechsler Primary and Preschool Scale of Intelligence and    also the Test of Early Reading Ability, second edition)                                                                                                                                                   CLICK HERE


Influence of childhood maltreatment on adolescent academics      (GPA and attendance)                                                         CLICK HERE 


Washington State Department of Early Learning:                  Disruptions in Developing Executive Function         CLICK HERE


Helping trauma-impacted children learn                      CLICK  HERE



Look for other parts of this series “Nowhere to Hide” on LucidWitness.com  for more information.


Trigger warning:  the children’s experiences in the vignettes are unvarnished.  Their traumatic responses may trigger painful memories.


Nowhere to Hide the Elephant in the [Class]Room   (overview)

Nowhere to Hide.  Maria Fight, flight or freeze?

Nowhere to Hide.  Andre’s fear.   What are Adverse Childhood Experiences?

Nowhere to Hide.  Jamar’s Hyperarousal

Nowhere to Hide.  Roberto’s Dissociation

Nowhere to Hide:  Danny’s Memory

Nowhere to Hide:  Ashley’s “Normal” Education?   Part 1

Nowhere to Hide:  Ashley’s “Normal” Education?   Part 2

Click below for more “Peek Inside a Classroom”;

The  original series, “Peek Inside a Classroom”, provides much more detailed looks inside my classroom, primarily focused on specific students: Jasmine, Danny and Jose.  Other vignettes are captured in broader looks at education reform concepts: “Failing Schools or Failing Paradigm?” and “Effective Education Reform.”

Peek Inside a Classroom:  Jasmine

Peek Inside a Classroom:  Danny

Peek Inside a Classroom: Jose

Peek Inside a Classroom:  Failing Schools or Failing Paradigm?

Peek Inside a Classroom:  Effective Education Reform (with Dr. Sandra Bloom, M.D.)



Want more ?    
CLICK FOR MORE RESOURCES:  Developmental Trauma


1.   Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Studies:   CLICK HERE

 2.  Impacts of Childhood Trauma: Overview               CLICK HERE

Click for Resources: Social Media on Impacts of Childhood Trauma

Click for Resources: Journal Articles on Impacts of Developmental Trauma

 3.   Trauma-Informed Schools                                               CLICK HERE 

 4.  Trauma-Informed Social Services                                CLICK HERE 

 5.   Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice                             CLICK HERE

 6.  Trauma-Informed Public Policy                                   CLICK HERE

 7.  Childhood Trauma Training and Tools                     CLICK HERE

 8.  Book and Publication selections                                CLICK HERE

9.   #800 phone numbers                                                         CLICK HERE


“Like” us at  “Trauma-Informed Pedagogy” on Facebook


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