Trauma is so pervasive in our society that it takes a rather comprehensive survey just to delineate the types of traumatic events children are experiencing. The adverse childhood experience (ACEs) survey, first published in 1998 as part of the ACEs Study by Doctors Felitti and Anda, asks a person what form of adversity he or she experienced as a child. It’s a checklist of potentially traumatic events with varying degrees of severity. In our book, Anna, Age Eight, we leave the language of academics behind in order to describe most of these experiences as “terrible, horrible, no-good and very bad.” The truth is that ACEs have led to an epidemic of childhood trauma and untreated adult trauma with costly emotional, physical and financial consequences.
With a quick online search, one can learn how the survey is being used with parents, teens and children. Some communities use the results as a call to action, advocating that local government fund trauma-informed behavioral health care in school and community settings. On the other end of the spectrum are government leaders who think that adversity is character-building and if people are traumatized, then they should fix themselves.
The ACEs survey is finding its way into popular culture – there’s even an app with the ten question survey we know 15 year-olds are using.
The survey that follows may bring up many memories and questions. Depending on your score and form of ACEs, it may also bring up feelings of sadness, fear, anger, confusion and trauma.