ACEs Aren’t Wild Cards: Speaker Series on Adverse Childhood Experiences

May 16, 2019

“If I could think of a vaccine, healthy attachment would be it.” – Dr. Meredith MacKenzie

On May 13th, 2019 we brought together over 140 members of the Kingston community to share in an important discussion on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). This sold out Speaker Series sought not only to raise community awareness about ACEs and their impact, but to explore what we can do, individually and as a community, to prevent and mitigate their effects.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) include all forms of abuse (physical, emotional, sexual), neglect (physical and emotional) and household dysfunction such as substance use in a parent, mental illness, or parental separation. 

Experiencing ACEs lead to predictable negative health and social well-being outcomes. As the number of ACEs increases, so does the risk for negative health outcomes.

This community conversation was held as a follow up to advice from our last speaker to “focus on youth – prevent the start of addiction and homelessness”.

Both Dr. Meredith MacKenzie and Kris Millan, Director of Family Health at KFL&A Public Health, spoke about the situations that can cause ACE’s, and how they impact a child’s development into adulthood. They included case studies of individuals and spoke about what actions are being taken in our community to support people who are or have experienced adversity.

Both speakers stressed the importance of intervention and positive parenting. Having safe, nurturing, available and predictable (SNAP) adults in a child’s life, with healthy attachment, has been proven to mitigate adverse childhood experiences. Looking at studies from areas of the world such as the US and Iceland, our speakers noted what is currently being done in the field, and how we as a community can work together to take a preventative, upstream approach.  

“We are working to change the social norm of ‘what’s wrong with you?’ to ‘what happened to you?’” said Dr. MacKenzie.  This shift approach is the key to understanding what we can do to help mitigate and prevent ACEs.

Our brains can grow and change at any age, and having access to resources, available adults – either in family or the broader community – can help support all of us to reach our full health and social well-being potential.

As keynote speaker Kris Millan explained, “interventions that create safe, stable and nurturing environments will have the most beneficial impacts. Children who are safe from physical and emotional harm, have a regular routine and experience nurturing from an adult they can rely on stand a better chance.”

After the speaker presentations, tables were asked to discuss the question “As a community, if we were to do ONE thing to address ACEs and build community resiliency, what would it be?”.

Results from the discussion highlighted that there is no one magical solution; but that many things will contribute to improving the health and social well-being of our community.  Table answers called for a broad variety of activities that support individuals, families and the broader community. Answers were reflective of activities that evidence has shown to work, signaling that there is a desire and readiness in our community to use the ACE approach.

We can all make a difference in a child’s (and an adult’s) life. Whether it’s being an available and nurturing parent/caregiver, aunt, uncle or grandparent, friend, or as a teacher, sports coach or tutor. The key is being nurturing, available, and predictable.

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On May 23, 2019 we are holding our Spring Community Grants Celebration and welcome you to come! Visit our website at the link above for more information!

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Community Foundation for Kingston & Area