Fighting childhood traumas with community partnerships
By Joe Zavala for the Mail Tribune
To illustrate the impact of what’s known as Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, and the power of overcoming their impact, Peter Buckley tells the story of a young boy at Orchard Hill Elementary in Medford.
The child could not sit still for more than a few minutes at a time, nor could he remain silent for long stretches like most of his peers. As a result, the classroom interruptions were constant.
Then, the teacher tried something called the “good behavior game,” which teaches students to “flip on their internal focus switch” in order to “self-regulate during both learning and fun,” according to goodbehaviorgame.org.
By the end of the school year, says Buckley, the boy was able to sit through class all day.
“A remarkable change,” says Buckley, a longtime Ashland resident whose term as Oregon state representative ends in early January when Pam Marsh takes office. “And how did they do it? They had to meet him where he was.”
Buckley recently expounded on the subject before a group of people gathered at the Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Ashland for the Rogue Valley New Day Network’s monthly potluck breakfast, highlighting the benefits of an ACEs-based approach to education and other sectors that focus on children, such as mental health and corrections.
Now the program manager for Southern Oregon Success, a nonprofit organization that bills itself as “a collective impact effort embracing trauma-informed practices to improve outcomes for children, youth and their families,” Buckley aims to spread the word.
“Once people have this information to work with, they’re putting together these partnerships across sectors that I think are going to be very effective,” says Buckley, whose organization provides trauma-informed training sessions and events at no cost to schools, agencies, businesses and community groups.
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International research has shown the Good Behavior Game to be an efficient method for reducing off-task behaviors in the classroom, as well as increasing prosocial skills, while long-term follow-ups have indicated positive effects on a wide range of health issues.
As Yamhill-Carlton Elementary School third graders worked on math problem, teacher Kourtney Fjelland watched not only how well they were handling fractions, but also how well they were behaving. Most were concentrating, cooperating, focusing on their work and staying in their seats. In other words, they were exhibiting the good behaviors students themselves suggested and agreed upon earlier in the year, also as part of the PAX Good Behavior Game.
Medication-assisted treatment and recovery services work, but in order for the U.S. population to reach its full health potential, behavioral health and addiction treatment providers need to go on the offensive, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA, told attendees at the National Council for Behavioral Health Conference on Tuesday in Seattle.
“We are asking students to change a belief system without changing the situation around them.”