When Dr. Lori Desautels, assistant professor in the College of Education at Butler University, was called to Scott County, she was besieged by teachers and administrators who told her they could practically tell time by their students’ behavior.

On Fridays, the number of referrals to the office for behavioral issues went up at the elementary and middle schools, and the absenteeism rates at the high school were highest on Mondays.

“They found that students were staying home to make sure their loved ones were coming out of their weekend benders safely,” she said. 

Desautels frequently visits schools throughout the state and the nation to help teachers and administrators with the reset of students facing various types of childhood trauma.

Her specialty, applied educational neuroscience, is a relatively new discipline that has been around for 30 years. She said it takes physicians, on average, about 17 years to adopt new frameworks, and it takes educators twice as long.

"Traditional discipline works best with the children who need it the least,” she said. “What we’ve created at Butler and my research is how we calm the nervous system.”

Desautels said most people experience common forms of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as the separation or divorce of the parents, chronic social rejection or the incarceration of a parent. But children who experience four or more ACEs from a list of 10 from birth through age 18 are 32.6 times more likely to have academic or behavioral challenges, she said.

“We are finding most achievement gaps are adversity gaps,” she said. “We are seeing more and more adversities coming from communities that have been struck hard by the opioid epidemic.”

Not only do children enter the classroom with their own ACEs, Desautels said, they can be victimized by those of their teachers.

“We are even are looking at the number of ACEs the teachers bring into the classroom because there is emotional contagion,” she said.

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