My heartfelt mission is to translate research into user-friendly resources and tools for children, youth and adults. I believe the true potential of research is only realized when we share what we are learning with communities, listen intently to their feedback and adapt as needed. One of my favorite projects, called “Take It to the Village,” received national recognition as a best practice. The goal was to meet people where they were at not just in terms of where they lived but also to understand their challenges and priorities.
Kids and adults who understand how their brains work are more resilient. My crew of traveling puppets take audiences on a tour of the brain and nervous system. I am the author of the internationally acclaimed “Amazing Brain” series, disseminated worldwide to help caregivers understand early brain development, how amazing the adolescent brain is, and the predictable and preventable effects of trauma. I am working a new booklet for parents called “Our Resilient Brain” to explain how the brain and body respond to stress and share simple practices to calm the brain, teach self-regulation and help children and caregivers thrive even through hard times.
A growing body of research validates the effectiveness of many traditional practices that have been passed generation to generation—sometimes it takes a long time for science to catch up with cultural wisdom and people’s way of knowing! There are new practices based on the latest neuroscience and related fields of research. There are also integrated approaches that combine the old and the new and have been rigorously evaluated.
My work is all about sharing simple tools that can be taught to children/youth and adults to harness the capacity of the brain to change and the body’s instinct to heal. These skills and tools benefit everyone given the escalating levels of stress we cope with in daily life, and are essential for professions at risk for compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma. I learned that lesson firsthand after working in the fields of family violence and trauma for two decades. My mantra is that no organization is trauma-informed unless they have a prevention plan for compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma.
I left my position as a Senior Scientist in 2017 to focus full-time on teaching resilience-building skills. Everything I have done and experienced in my life has led me to this moment. From classrooms to board rooms to family shelters to military installations, there is nothing I rather be doing when I am not on our homestead in Homer, Alaska with my husband, Al.