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The numbers are stark: One in four U.S. students will witness or experience a traumatic event before the age of 4, and more than two thirds by age 16. Children cannot close their eyes to a parent’s arrest, a forced eviction, abuse, death or divorce. With each traumatic event, the instinctive trigger to “fight or flee” is pulled over and over again.

Over time, a child’s developing brain is changed by these traumatic experiences. Areas that govern the retention of memory, the regulation of emotion, and the development of language skills are affected. The result is a brain that has structurally adapted for survival under the most stressful circumstances-but not for success in school.

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