Matthew Green

Focus on reducing childhood trauma in Pottstown

Reading Eagle, June 12, 2016 (Matt Carey)

Postcard front

Pottstown officials are taking steps to reduce instances of childhood trauma among students in the
school district.

The topic was discussed during a roundtable at the Pottstown Early Action for Kindergarten
Readiness, or PEAK, program’s annual meeting at Montgomery County Community College. A
program of the school district, PEAK partners with private child care locations to provide
prekindergarten education to local students.

The trauma that officials hope to reduce is related to adverse childhood experiences such as
physical and emotional abuse, parents’ divorce or the incarceration of a parent.

Dr. Jack Tebes of the Yale University Child Study Center said that to reduce the amount of adverse
childhood experiences children face, changes need to be made at several levels, including the
personal, family, school, community and systemic levels.

Tebes has worked with the Pottstown Trauma Informed Community Connection for nearly a year.
PTICC is a network of organizations that includes the Pottstown Police Department, the Pottstown
School District and nonprofits in the area.

The group cites a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that showed two-thirds of adult
participants suffered one or more types of adverse childhood experiences. And in a community
demographically similar to Pottstown, 25 percent of people had four or more adverse experiences.
The study showed that a high number of adverse experiences can reduce the average life span by
20 years.

Pottstown Police Capt. Robert Thomas, a member of the PTICC steering committee, said he was
convinced that more education regarding adverse experiences is needed after he saw research that
showed the physiological impact on children who faced multiple adverse experiences.

“You can’t argue that it doesn’t exist,” Thomas said. “And there’s going to be people that need to
understand that yes, there is a physiological difference, and it’s not just ‘rub some dirt on it and get
back in the game.’ ”

Thomas said the entire Pottstown Police Department would be receiving training in how to react to
children affected by traumatic situations. “Hopefully, it will sink in to them as it sunk in to me,”
Thomas said.

Denise Kuder, a pre-K teacher at the Pottstown branch of Montgomery Early Learning Center, said
the education regarding adverse experiences for children has helped her seek out the cause of
behavioral issues she has witnessed.

“Now, when I see it happening, I automatically go, ‘I wonder what’s happening at his house,’ or ‘I
wonder if he had breakfast this morning,’ ” Kuder said. “A lot of times, it’s something going on at
home, and it causes them to react in the classroom.”

More information on the Pottstown Trauma Informed Community Connection is available at


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