The Impact of ACEs


Here is where I need to use the word REVOLUTION.  I believe the greatest possible impact for using the ACE Study to improve the lives of our entire world today lies in the Pediatric segment.  There have been some breakthroughs in this arena…but to my way of thinking…not quick enough.  And no, it’s not the ACE score of the children I am referencing, but the use of the ACE questionnaire with the parents…ALL parents!

The only way to change the direction of our society that continues to pass on dysfunction and simply throw more resources at future social services is to suck up our courage and find the understanding to give every incoming pediatric parent the ACE test.  Then and only then will we pierce the veil of shame and vulnerability that prevents us from facing the rising epidemic of lost and lonely children that are dropped off at our schools…not ready to learn because of their ACE issues.  I reference the Children’s Clinic of Portland, Oregon as the test case for the new wave of caring put into Healthcare.  Doctors Teri Pettersen and RJ Gillespie initially used ACE testing on parents and now all 37 doctors follow their regimen.  Their practice is not just about sore throats and fevers…they are there to support families!  They found that instead of feeling a sense of invasion of privacy with the parents, they found a sense of relief.  There are few parents who have a child with the sole intention of harming that child physically or emotionally.  But if that is the only childhood that you knew, who, how and where are you supposed to go for help in changing that behavior?  The caring manner that is used in this approach is the most important issue in parenting and healthcare in our country today.  I challenge every single pediatric practice to look into the success of the Children’s Clinic of Portland.  There are lives in the balance today of our newborn children who are in need of proper guidance, love and support.  Once we find a way to let each child grow up comfortable in their own skin, we will find that the teachers of our country will have the opportunity to teach children who are ready to learn.

Secondarily, as the original ACE Study found, it is imperative to have a full view of the patient sitting in front of you.  Only seeing the physical person leaves a great deal of emotional data out of the picture.  I believe that every single phase of healthcare, from pediatrics to cancer to dietary counseling needs to utilize the holistic approach that the ACE Study allows.  It is no different than buying a new laptop computer, having it get a virus and expecting it to perform well.  I see in the near future that the ACEs REVOLUTION will become a standard in our world and healthcare can benefit from it in the most significant ways.  There is no denying the data is helping to treat the whole patient and not just the symptoms that get treated without knowing the whole picture of the patient’s life.


Many of my family members were teachers.  Every one of them could tell fairly quickly which children were getting the proper care and support at home, that made them more ready to learn than others.  Telltale signs like wearing the same clothes every day, lack of proper cold weather clothing or forgetting to pack a lunch were the obvious ones.  Yet, before the first report card was sent home, they could tell who was having someone reading to them or doing anything that prepared them as they began their formal education.

Bullying is the topic that points to the epidemic nature of ACE issues in the schools systems across the country today.  It has been making the evening news for years and yet the source of this bullying seems to confound educators.  Wake up!  Bullying comes directly from ACE issues that begin in the home.  The psychological term that fits here is displacement.  When the stress of life at home becomes too great to bear…the overflow valve that blows is acting out with mean or unkind behavior to a weaker person.  It’s the parents who are responsible in every case. 

Now though, through the use of ACE trauma based treatment, schools are waking up to the fact that the last thing a stressed out student needs is to be suspended.  That only exacerbates the problem at home.  The most visible example of this trauma based treatment in the educational world today is the new movie by Jamie Redford titled “Paper Tigers.”  The movie follows students who attend Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, Washington.  Jamie has been surprised and delighted with the response the initial screenings have generated.  He partners with Tugg online to allow for screenings to be secured for your school or community.

Trauma informed communities are finding in the long run that it is much wiser to heal…than to punish.  That goes for the cost factors involved in dealing with long term ACE issues down the road.  We continue to throw BILLIONS of dollars at social services that are needed to deal with the individuals that have not been treated or counseled about the traumas of the childhood ACE issues they faced.  I believe that many of our ADD and ADHD diagnosed students are simply youngsters with impactful ACE scores.  More hugs and less drugs needs to be the way we deal with these issues.

Insurance Companies

I believe that if we could get the insurance companies to partner with the healthcare world in actually being proactive in the use of ACE Study data to treat children and adults at an earlier age, we could make a significant impact on premiums down the road.  The longer we allow ACE issues to fester and cause multiple problems in our communities, the more expensive insurance will be in the long run.  I actually wrote an email to the CEO of Aetna to see if I could earn an hour of his time to discuss the matter.  My wife works for Aetna and said the CEO was a big supporter of the lives of employee’s welfare.  I didn’t hear anything back as yet, but would love an opportunity to discuss it with him.  You know, that’s the funny thing about people who learn about the ACE Study.  It makes such simple common sense, that you want to tell everyone about it.  That is because once you see the thread of logic…it amazes you how it applies to every phase of your understanding about how things work in your head and heart.  And you can’t help but want to save the next child from that trauma that can have lasting effects for the rest of their life.

The Government

They recently held a meeting at the White House labeled…”Rethinking Educational Discipline”.  That’s right, even at the government level they are seeing the long term advantages of Trauma Based Community thinking.  Think of how much money could be saved in the future if we did our best to motivate the Pediatric practices around the country, as I described earlier.  I only mention money first because that is how you get the attention of our government.  Me, I only know the joy of being a ZERO ACE score fella and have been trying to pay it forward all of my life after I realized not everyone was blessed with parents like mine.

If you are starting to see the all-pervasive value of understanding the righteous nature of ACE infused thinking, now apply it long term to the issues that we face with Medicaid.  Everyone complains about the out of control costs related to Medicaid.  Imagine for a moment that we are twenty years down the road and have applied ACE Study disciplines to all of our communities.  The lower income and less educated communities across the country seem to use the ER as their primary doctor.  What if we found a way to integrate into those communities a system that approached the issues of ACE into the fabric of early education and community outreach?  Maybe with bold moves to break the patterns of early pregnancy we could slow the rate of teen pregnancy that seems to be the norm in those communities.  Again, the pediatric world has to be at the forefront of this effort, since they are the first to know of a pregnancy.

At Work

In the perfect world…without PRIVACY issues…wouldn’t it be great to know the ACE score of all of your employees?  How about new hires?  If we could get over the shame and vulnerability thing related to ACE scores, wouldn’t it be a win-win for all concerned to have that knowledge?  Knowing the ACE score and issues of your employees could help companies counsel and guide employees to personal growth that would make them happier and more productive in the long run.  My success in the business world was simply that I treated everyone like family…I didn’t know any other way…and it was a joy to change clients lives with my words and heart.  That’s why when I speak or write I always use as my compass the thought…”Does it feel like Family?” And now to make a point for those who didn’t know a family life like mine, we need a new definition of family.

 Definition of Family:  ANY environment where we have the opportunity to watch over each other.

As I review the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work for List each year, there is a common factor that stands out above all others.  Somewhere in every description of the company’s best features is an employee or leader who says “it feels like a family here.”  The amazing difference in long term growth of earnings is directly related to the pattern of employees who say “I come to work because I want to…not because I have to.”  The significant expense of hiring and training is dramatically reduced by treating the employees like you would in a functional family.  They go out of their way to make allowances for family issues and healthcare occurrences where exceptions are the standard rule.   Some companies are even extending that to vacations…take what you need!  If you do everything possible to make that employee feel safe and cared for…do you think there is a chance they might be more productive in their daily effort?  Matter of fact, they would be on the lookout for other candidates that would fit into the fabric of the company as a new hire!  What better source of new talent than a personal referral from a happy employee?

Okay, now picture within that happy family you were safe enough to ask about an employee’s ACE score.  Not from a nervous position, but from a perspective that would allow you to know what issues may keep them from being the best that they could be.  It’s similar in context to the pediatrician talking with the new parents.  You could use the information to find ways to help that employee confront, face and heal the issues that make for a hard day at work.  I have heard many consultants say that simply holding a daily ten meeting before the day begins seems to give the impression of caring about the employee and their life, not just an automaton that needs to man the phones for the day.

What if that family attitude reached the level of caring that would allow for each employee feel free to bring up personal subjects that others might give perspective on to help ease the burden of feeling so alone in our daily effort to find happiness?  Belonging is the word that seems to surface every time I consider the hunger that most folks have for their lives.  It’s the same all the way through school, at work, in the neighborhood and most importantly in the family.  Those employees that do not have a good family connection, and you know how prevalent that is, are thrilled to be part of a company that makes it feel like a family!  Read for yourself this year or any archived year in the Fortune 100 Best Places to Work for List…I promise you will see that thread!

At Home

My life changed a decade ago at a third grade teacher’s conference with my wife and son in attendance.  The teacher said that in 22 years of teaching she had never had a student quite like our Jared.  She said that he watched over the entire class with a spirit that said “shouldn’t we all be watching over each other?”  She went on to say that she had checked with my son Austin’s first grade teacher and he was already that guy for her as well.  My eldest son JC was the same guy who was seven years ahead of those boys, with a gap that was the birth and death of only 13 days for our daughter Megan Grace. 

Let it be clear here…I am not a psychologist or a clinician of any type.  Yet, repeatedly in my life people take me aside to let me know the impact and impression of caring that my boys use as a daily effort is different than they are used to seeing and feeling.  That exists today in spades.  As a single proof statement to back up that claim I will share one recent story with you…not bragging…simply to let you know the way I became the Greatful Dad.

 Here is the story: 

On a cold Sunday morning in February of this year, I was watching CBS Sunday Morning with my wife Colleen.  It was 8:35am and my cell phone went off with an 881 area code.  I considered that it could be a telemarketer, but heck it was Sunday morning!  I took a chance and was surprised and concerned that I heard my youngest son Austin’s voice.  He was in Chile guiding and filming at a fishing lodge so remote that it was 2 ½ hours from the nearest electricity!  He immediately let me know that everything was all right and he was on the satellite phone.  After regaining my breath I asked what was so important to be using the satellite phone…and here is what he said, “I am sitting having a cup of coffee with the owner of the lodge Skip, and he insisted that I call you this morning.  He wants to invite you to be his guest at the lodge for a week in the next few weeks while his kids are still here.  He said that after two 90 day seasons of my guiding here at the lodge, he has found that he is a better dad, a better host for all of our clients and generally a happier person all around.  He said he wants you to come and meet his kids and let him give you some love in return for the effort you made in raising me the way you did.  He said you have changed his life with the love you gave me…”

I was absolutely sobbing at this point…I had to hand the phone to Colleen because I couldn’t catch my breath.  She was concerned but somehow could tell it wasn’t a sad or tragic sobbing.  Austin repeated to her the story and she put her hand on my head to console me.  Three weeks later after 5 flights and 2 full days of travel…I got that love from all concerned.  His kids were a delight, the staff was exceedingly friendly and all the people I met in the area that week greeted me as a lost son returned home.  Do you know what made that happen?  Austin had treated them all like family over the two years and I was reaping the rewards of his love!!!  A brief addendum to that story, I need to share my airport departure at the end of the trip.  Christian the head chef at the lodge was going to give me a ride as he had to get supplies in town.  We had a great chat and listened to some chill music on the way.  As we arrived at the airport, he insisted on helping me with my gear and standing in line with me until all arrangements were made for a smooth departure and seat assignment with some leg room.  I walked hem back ot to the truck to say goodbye and gave him a big hug.  I reached into my pocket for some cash to tip him.  With a very serious look on his face he said, “No Juanon, Austin is my brother.”  I was nervous that I had hurt his feelings, but he just gave me a big smile and an even bigger hug.  Our time together at the lodge did feel exactly like being with family.  That is what all my boys accomplish with their caring and love in every phase of their lives.  My parents would be proud of the legacy I have passed on.

That is what the rest of this book is about…how, what, where and when you can show your children how much you care for them.  I have taken every little thing that my folks gave me so freely as a child, that I have passed on to my children…and any other person that was curious about that kind of love.  I have been driving for Uber for the last two years, and if someone asks what brought me to Nashville, I tell them about being invited here for a PBS TV show based on my writing, NPR radio, YouTube videos and my music.  My sponsorship fell through as I arrived here, which was a bad surprise, but in my daily effort I have found that many, many people are starving for the kind of connection I have been writing about.  There have been a few tears in my car…and many hugs.  The psychic compensation from touching just one heart a day is something that has enriched my soul.  I have had phone calls from far away asking for 20 books from a dad whose son gave him my book as recently as last week.  He said it had changed his life and wanted to share the books with family and friends who he knew were struggling.  My favorite hug was from a sweet young woman named Jennifer who I had driven to the airport months before and was excited to see me again because after reading the book I gave her…she made 5 other people read it and said it had made a deep impression on her and that positive vibe had her moving to Nashville!

So here is my challenge to all of you.  I will offer a money back guarantee on this book if you have the courage to read from here on OUT LOUD with your children/family/friends.  I have been told repeatedly that instead of a private cognitive moment by yourself reading the book…reading it out loud with others it will start conversations of an intimate nature that makes people share the feelings that have been left unsaid and that the love by assumption I talk about simply does not work well.  Anything that leaves doubt or fear in any relationship and most importantly with your children, is the potential source of ACEs in the future of those relationships.

I have no other agenda.

I wish every child could have the love and support that I had.  It allowed me and my brothers and our whole tribe to share the legacy of love that Vernon and Grace Trayser gave us so beautifully.  In that way…you can live forever.  They are alive in us.  Please take the chance that I am giving you a gift that is priceless.  Live a life of joy…filled with NO REGRETS.  Thank you mom and dad for loving us and each other the way you did.  It was a joy to behold…




The Impact of ACEs on ALL of Us