Adverse Childhood Experiences: Early Childhood Educators Awareness and Perceived Support

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Smith, Marla
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Mount Saint Vincent University
Introduction: Research suggests that early childhood is a sensitive and influential period in a child’s development. Experiencing stressful experiences during this developmental phase can cause unfavourable outcomes for children and their future development. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are experiences that can impact a child prior to the age of 18. ACEs can provide toxic stress to children and their developing brain, causing a permanent change in brain chemistry. Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) are individuals who work to support the development of children between their most malleable ages of 0 to 5. Although important for future behaviour and development, there is limited research regarding ECEs and their awareness or perceived support related to supporting children who have experiencing, or are experiencing, ACEs. Methods: A Qualitative Description approach was used in order to portray participants experiences. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with ECEs working for regulated child care centres through Nova Scotia. Results: Thematic analysis was completed and resulted in useful insight into ECEs awareness and perceived support relating to ACEs. ECEs described their awareness of ACEs, receiving this awareness from parent and educator communication, child behaviours, community location as well as barriers to this awareness such as varying comfort levels of parents and stigma. Educators suggested that creating supportive relationships and environments were important when supporting children who have been through ACEs. Additionally, educators spoke to their community’s ability to support them in supporting ACEs. Educators suggested that factors such as increased training opportunities and professional development would help support children. Significance: This research begins to fill the gap between ACEs and early childhood education. This research also provides insight into future supports needed to support ECEs.
Research Subject Categories::INTERDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH AREAS::Children , Adverse Childhood Experiences , Early Childhood Educators , Stress , Nova Scotia