Trauma Informed Oregon brings new educational resources to Clatsop County


By Sue Cody



ACES Laura Porter“There is an explosion of new knowledge, and in one generation we can lay a foundation for a healthier society.” That was the message Laura Porter gave to an audience of 90 on Monday, Oct. 5, at the Seaside Civic and Convention Center.



Porter, a trainer and educator for ACE Interface presented a session on “Understanding Adverse Childhood Experiences,” with a focus on building self-healing communities. Health care workers, counselors, educators, business people and others attended the “Trauma Informed Care” event.



Porter spoke about passing nurturing across generations by paying attention to Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) scores. The original ACE study, conducted from 1995 to 1997, linked childhood trauma to long-term health and social consequences. It was based on 17,000 Kaiser Permanente patients and showed a dramatic increase in social and economic adversities for those who experienced some childhood trauma.



Trauma included repeated sexual, physical or emotional abuse; unmet basic needs (food, clothing); living with an adult who had a substance abuse issue; or those who were separated from a parent.



After many more studies, data shows those individuals who suffer traumas at an early age have difficulty in school, and are more likely to be incarcerated, have substance abuse issues, job insecurity, or experience homelessness.



“We need to retool and rethink how we respond to adversity,” Porter said.






Porter introduced discoveries in neurobiology and epigenetics that showed how trauma at different ages and stages of brain development adversely affect behavior. Epigenetics is the study of how cells turn on and off genes from information gathered by environmental factors.



Because an experience connects to cells in the brain, the developmental stage of the brain when the trauma occurs will have different effects. Each individual responds differently.



“Toxic stress at a certain age and brain development can show up as mental illness at a much later age, such as in early adulthood,” Porter said. But the brain has plasticity and can open up old pathways that haven’t been used much.



“There are new opportunities to understand how people are affected by adversity by knowing the brain development.



“You have the opportunity to change the narrative of your life. Reshape the narrative. Drop the shame and blame. You don’t have to hold onto that.”



ACES SeasideTrauma Informed Care



The ACEs study has led counselors and educators to interview and listen to people, taking into account the traumas they experienced in childhood. They collect information about the past and create a prospective of where this might lead.



“This allows us to see health and well-being like never before,” said Porter. “We didn’t have the epigenetics and neuroscience at the time of the studies.



“Now we understand the pathways. When you understand, you can predict. If you can predict, you can prevent,” Porter said.



“ACEs are not destiny,” Porter said. “When we intentionally build support, people flourish.”






The road to wellness involves being aware of one’s triggers, knowing the background in terms of early childhood trauma and getting patients to ask for support. By verbalizing what is needed, all become more aware of the challenges we are facing.



“We all build accommodations for our weaknesses,” Porter said. Adaptation may be more difficult for those who have higher ACE scores. Society often turns its back on those with adverse conditions. It is important to strengthen the social network.



One community had difficulty with people showing up for their WIC (Woman, Infants and Children) appointments. There were multiple reasons. The administrators decided to change the way they offered the service and switched to a drop-in site. Attendance increased dramatically and some women stayed all day to visit and build relationships. The fabric of the social network grew stronger.



“We can work with parents with high ACEs for the next generation. Parents have the most power to prevent ACEs in the next generation. They have a daily influence on their children.



“Heal the parents, heal the next generation. I am confident we can do this. Having an informed community lets people see how they can help. Give to the community where you live.



“Share the joy — it’s not a sacrifice,” Porter said.