Heal ACEs Rating Tool™ for Schools

Educators and school staff play a significant role in the lives of children and youth. However, when these children are struggling with the residual effects of trauma and multiple ACEs, it can be very challenging. Children with complex trauma are often disruptive, have significant development delays, struggle to form relationships, and often exhibit challenging behaviours. In an already full and diverse classroom, these needs can be overwhelming.

The good news is that we have seen real and effective change when schools have embraced and woven-in the concepts of trauma-informed practice into their classrooms. Teachers are at the forefront of learning and can provide a safe place and a sounding board, being a trusted adult to provide guidance. When educators adopt such practices as mindfulness, social-emotional learning, or trauma-sensitive approaches; all students benefit. Many schools see improvement not just in emotions and behaviour, but also in academics. This is a win-win for everyone.

Please see the CTR website resources for Educators https://www.complextrauma.ca/educators/.

What is the HeART™ - How does it work?

Complex Trauma, Toxic Stress, and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) can affect children and youth in grievous ways. These experiences can lead to a range of social, emotional, and behavioural difficulties which are hard for parents, schools, and other adults to manage. They can also lead to challenges in many other areas related to the nervous system and basic physiology. The difficulties that children with complex trauma experience often result in being labelled with a variety of mental health and medical diagnoses.

Our Approach

The CTR Clinical Team has developed a cutting-edge approach to the effects of Complex Trauma in children and youth, based on a clear understanding of the brain-based effects that trauma can have on the developing brain. All of our approaches are geared to giving simple and practical strategies that address the core needs of the child at a physical, emotional, and relational level.

All strategies are created following a thorough Heal ACEs Rating Tool™ (HeART™) of the child’s strengths and weaknesses. The HeART™ considers the following 7 Developmental Domains™:

  • N - Neurological and Biological Maturity
  • O - Over-reactive Stress Response
  • E - Emotional Regulation
  • A - Attachment Style and Relationships
  • I - Identity Development
  • B - Behavioural Regulation
  • C - Cognitive and Language Development

This approach arises from the recognition that complex trauma and persistent maltreatment often affect children’s development in fairly consistent ways. Regardless of the type of maltreatment, its severity and frequency create profound, personal, and developmental effects for the children who experience them. The seven domains are adapted by CTR from the work of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and other researchers. For some background on Complex Trauma, please read the following article produced by NCTSN: http://pathwaysrtc.pdx.edu/pdf/fpW0702.pdf

The HeART™ tool is completed in a structured group interview with the adults who work with or know the student most closely. The group discusses a child’s strengths and weaknesses across the CTR 7 Developmental Domains™ and assigns a rating. From the ratings a rough Developmental Profile is generated allowing the team to view the child’s development compared to same age peers, along with an accompanying report.

School staff can generate an individualized intervention plan based on the results of the assessment, using the HeART™ Intervention Strategies guide and other supporting materials. Goals arising from the HeART™ profile can be incorporated into the student’s individual educational plan (IEP) and then monitored. The assessment can be re-done at mid-year and end of year to track progress. Aggregate reports which combine groups of students are available as well. The HeART™ is applicable for any school-age children or youth.

Dr. Chuck Geddes has published an article outlining some of our approach at CTR as well as a case example that shows an application of this model.

What is included in the package?

  • HeART™ tool online. Includes assessment, profile graph, individual client report, aggregate reports
  • HeART™ Rating Guide
  • HeART™ Intervention Strategies (9 pgs)
  • HeART™ Integration w IEPs (Individual Education Plans) handout
  • CTR Therapeutic Schools Handbook – ACEs and Complex Trauma in the classroom
  • CTR Therapeutic Schools PPT to educate your team and parents
  • CTR PEACE-ful Homes Handout
  • CTR PEACE-ful Schools PPT to design school and classroom-based strategies
  • PEACE-ful Schools Handout (2 pgs)

How to adopt HeART™?

  1. Designated staff person attends a CTR 1 day PEACEful Schools training event PLUS 1 additional day for the HeART™. See https://www.complextrauma.ca/events-calendar/ for available dates or contact info@complextrauma.ca to discuss your training needs. Our staff are available for ProD and other training events.
  2. Purchase an annual individual or group membership from www.complextrauma.ca. The reason for this is that a trauma-informed understanding will be crucial to your work and is the foundation for the HeART™ tool. The website offers many resources for educators.
  3. Register at HealACEs. Take the registration ID code provided at the CTR training event and follow the registration steps.
  4. Select a HeART™ assessment package based on the number of students you wish to assess. You may select monthly billing based on the number of active cases, or an annual option.
  5. Create student case. Each User can create case accounts and put these students under different school or class groupings. For instance, a User might create two classes – Eagle Ed, and Reach High, and place multiple students under each. Users can only see student cases that they have created or student cases they are invited to view by the case creator.
  6. Optional - Schools have the option of purchasing student-specific consultation from experienced CTR clinicians. This support is offered through secure video conference calls where on-site consultation is not accessible. Consultants can help with all aspects of training, assessment, and intervention planning. Clinical consultation is available via scheduled multi-school seminars or individualized appointments.