Wednesday, April 17, 2019 from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM EDT
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Berkshire Room 
333 South Street
4th Floor
Shrewsbury, MA 01545-4169

Driving Directions 


Dana Bienkowski 
UMass Donahue Institute in Conjuction with MA DDS 


                      The 2019 DDS Speakers Series presents:

Positive Behavior Support: Prevention and Treatment of Distress, Anxiety & Trauma 

Presented by:  Karen Williams

Summary: The last 20 years of neuroscientific research has been driven by questions generatedby the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, i.e., “how are these findings possible”? Neuroscience has shown that only 25% of our neurons are networked at birth, and epigenetics, i.e., the interaction between our DNA (Nature) and our Experiences (Nurture) networks the rest. Our DNA code stays the same, but how that code is switched on and off and how it is expressed, depends on the triggering experience. Unmitigated distress interrupts the neural networking process (the ACEs “neural disruption”). Our epigenetic “record” is inheritable, which means the experiential damage we do today can show up in future generations. But – it is also reversible - - we can stop and reverse the damage, i.e., reverse the outcomes of the ACE Study. Adults are responsible for making our children’s experiences nurturing, but since life gets in the way of a stress-free life, we are also responsible for building our children’s coping and stress-management habits - and if we do not, the ACE Study findings will continue to be our record of results. We are not only responsible for building the cognitive abilities of our children, we are responsible for building their physical and behavioral health, and these last two come first.

Content - - Neuroscience has shown that:
•    Human beings CANNOT behave, listen, remember, self-regulate, become resilient, think rationally, develop cognitively, or become behaviorally or physically healthy until they can FIRST feel calm – even when they are excited or distressed.

•     That means we need to be calm BEFORE we can think - - and before we can remember what we were told, even a few moments before. We need coping and calming skills that are so practiced that they become habits and therefore become automatic responses.

•    Our DNA-driven temperament (our sensitivity to adversity) and our DNA-driven distress responses (Fight, Flight or Freeze)will always be first, but once we have calming habits that are just as automatic, these habits can tamp down the automatic DNA-driven distress responses almost instantaneously. The earlier we begin building these habits the stronger, more responsive, and immediate they become. This is prevention.

•     We are 85% sensations (body) and 15% emotions (mind) - - both of which are called feelings - - and our brain follows our body’s lead. If we learn skills for calming our sensations (breathing, heart-rate, etc.) – and we practice those skills until they become habits – we can achieve a state of calm regardless of the situation - - and without thinking about it. That’s our number one job! Nothing is as important.

•    Practicing coping and calming skills until they become habits means that we can prevent, interrupt, mitigate, and even reverse the harm from childhood distress and trauma, regardless of whether or not we can identify or impact the source of the adversity.  And, we can build these habits at any time throughout life.