ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience) refers to a serious childhood trauma that occurs in the first 18 years of life. Often resulting in toxic stress, ACE can damage a child’s brain development and physical health, which can have long-term implications.

Children with ACEs often struggle to manage stress, which can ultimately result in unhealthy behaviors, such as fighting, defiance, unintended pregnancy, unemployment, smoking, alcoholism and drug abuse. Socially, these children find it difficult to form social connections and maintain relationships. From a cognitive standpoint, they tend to struggle with impaired memory, difficulty figuring things out and learning challenges, making it more challenging to perform in school.

The effects of ACEs can also manifest physically—from high blood pressure, cancer and type 2 diabetes to gastrointestinal disease, an impaired ability to fight infection and much more. Whether physical, emotional or both, ACE-related trauma is often seen well into adulthood.

At PIK, we are committed to driving awareness of this often-overlooked issue through our ACE Action Group. For more information about how you can incorporate ACE awareness into your programming, contact Barb Kauffman at bkauffman@mcpik.org.