My Emotionless Photos: The Masks That Some People Wear Because of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) by Mindy Hudon, M.S., CCC-SLP

5 years ago

My Emotionless Photos: The Masks That Some People Wear Because of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

This is me at 10 years old. I know you’re thinking to yourself, “Pretty snazzy.” I rocked the wavy turtleneck and red ball ponytail holders. I had every color and wore them proudly. I probably dressed myself that day and obviously did my own hair (notice the crooked part and uneven pony holders). The most remarkable thing to me about this photo is my flat facial affect. I wasn’t mad or scared. This is how I looked in every school photo up until my senior year in high school. I never smiled. That was the mask I wore!

My annual emotionless photo capture never really stood out to me until recently. My former principal asked our staff to read “Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom” by Kristin Souers. As an educator, I have worked closely with children who have experienced trauma and know all too well its impact on their learning. What I never realized was that I was a child who had experienced trauma.

In her book, Souers bulleted adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) that I identified with: substance abuse in the home, parental separation/divorce, witnessing domestic violence, poverty and the death of a parent.

I never knew that the mask I wore at school was the reflection of my life outside of the classroom. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that a beloved teacher saw through my mask. I thought I was hiding it well, but she saw behind the mask and looked deeper into my soul.

Since that time, I smile in every photo I take as a reflection of my amazing life. There are far too many childhood memories of me wearing my mask. Today I am happy to say that my smile represents me, not my trauma.

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Elisa Schmitz
I'm so sorry for your trauma, Mindy Hudon, M.S., CCC-SLP . As we learn more and more about the effects of ACEs on children, it's easy to see why many of us wore masks, as you did. But I see your beauty, inside and out, in this photo as I do in all the photos of you (and even more IRL). Love you! xoxo
Mindy Hudon, M.S., CCC-SLP
You do't have to be sorry for my trauma. It was all I knew at the time. It wasn't something my mother wanted for us and at the time she didn't realize it. She loved us with all her heart and worked her hardest to provide for us. She was in trauma too!
Ann Marie Patitucci
Thank you for sharing this, Mindy Hudon, M.S., CCC-SLP . I think it's so important for parents, teachers, and caregivers- anyone who spends time with children, really- to be aware of this. I recently did a training in trauma and resilience and learned so much about ACEs, and am so glad I did.
Mindy Hudon, M.S., CCC-SLP
You never ever know what a child brings with them when they enter the walls of a school district. Trauma impacts new learning due to the fight-flight-freeze response that can come along with a child. I was the "freeze" kind of kid as you can see. We see a lot of fight and flight in schools too and there needs to be so much more training for educators about this subject.
I have been involved in lots of training and in-services centered around ACES and trauma informed care. My first intro was watching the movie Paper Tigers (I think you can watch the movie on YouTube if anyone is interested). After knowing my own ACE score, I am much more aware of how experiences can impact your life. This year I will be piloting a trauma informed care curriculum in my classroom and I am hoping to be able to help my students more. Mindy, would you be willing to discuss being a Twitter chat guest discussing this topic or even another of your choice? You have so much knowledge to share about so many things!
Mindy Hudon, M.S., CCC-SLP
I am always happy to be a Twitter chat host. I have done a few in the past. I am not an expert on ACE, I am just a person who has lived through it. I would love to learn more about your trauma informed care curriculum for the district I work in. May be you should be a Twitter host!

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