Developmental Trauma: When Lived Experience is Considered Expertise Everyone Benefits

When someone is speaking about developmental trauma at a conference or webinar they are most often a clinician, scholar, teacher or researcher. If they have a lived experience of adverse childhood experiences that may not even be mentioned or spoken of.


In 2015.

This is starting to change and I’m thrilled to be a part of the Training Venue series on Developmental Trauma speaking as a writer, mother and trauma survivor.

There are more and more trauma-sensitive, trauma-informed and ACE-related initiatives, protocols, approaches and research.

However, I’m surprised by the lack of collaborative efforts, brainstorming and working groups between those with lived experience of high ACES and developmental trauma and those working “for” us.

Rarely are survivors of developmental trauma asked:

What was your experience?

What was hard?

What could have gone better?

What helped?

How did you navigate?

How could we as teacher-therapist-parent assisted more or harmed less?

What could have helped, steadied or supported your growth, health or development?

What do you need, want, crave or find useful now?

This is too bad because there are few portable, affordable and effective treatments for developmental trauma. There are many expensive and ineffective ones still widely used (like talk therapy used alone).

This is a shame because many people are suffering physically, emotionally and in relationships and with all variety of ailments and burdens.  And they are feeling that they are also inadequate at healing, coping or resilience rather than that anyone with their experiences would be burdened and that the services made available might be ineffective, unrealistic or created by people unaware of developmental trauma.

This too is changing!

Thanks to social medial those of us with personal and professional insights, experiences and views can find one another, speak for ourselves and offer wisdom, honesty and our own voices to conversations about ‘people like us.’

We can start our own groups, non-profits, Facebook pages and act as writers, activists, artists and educators to help make change.

We can value and affirm and learn from one another too. We respect and to relate to one another directly – which is healing.

We can work on creating services for others knowing what isn’t and is helpful and what we need and want and have or have yet to find.

I used to speak only to other survivors about developmental trauma because it seemed no one else “got it” and now I like to think of us as “getting it together.”

It’s important to join our voices and to speak to others, especially our allies, who are working, meaning or intending to help. It can feel vulnerable but also important.

They need to hear from us.


Because people speaking for us often are missing aspects of experience in the past and present.

Because many fabulous and wonderful children and adults are suffering from emotional, physical and social problems, pains and issues caused by interpersonal violence.

Because too many well-meaning helpers are ill-informed or have inaccurate or dated data about what trauma survivors need, want and find helpful.

Because there is still stigma secrecy and shame to having experienced violence. Sometimes those in the helping professions can’t speak up or out from a personal perspective. However, they might be able to ask those of us who are “out” already to do so.

We have wisdom to share and can make the journey less arduous and lonely for others.

When educator, administrator and adoptive mother Melissa Sadin read an article I wrote, “Being Real About Trauma Symptoms” she reached out to me.  she invited me to participate in a webinar on developmental trauma I said yes.

I was honored. And afraid.

But there are too few places validating our voices. The best one I know of is where all interested in anything and everything ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) can gather.

The information sharing is necessary because trauma sensitive and trauma-informed efforts that don’t take into account the views, experiences and perspectives of those hoping to be served are doomed to fail.

We have a substantial history of efforts and policies that have not worked. Better and more varied services and and approaches to addressing and healing developmental trauma are needed. More and more is being accomplished but we’re a long way from saying – that done.

A long way.

I had no voice as a child. I had no context, perspective or language. That’s part of the reality of being a child and it’s also a result of early trauma and neglect.

I couldn’t speak up or advocate for myself as a child. I could survive, endure and persist.

Today, I can find and use my words to speak for myself and with others.

I’m a mother, woman, animal lover, sea glass collector, poetry loving activist and I have the lived experience of developmental trauma and an ACE-packed childhood.

All these identities are part of me but for so many years I was shamed about and riddled with experiences and symptoms that inhibit life.

No one can enjoy a lovely meal while someone is choking even if the menu is filled with stunning and nutritious offerings. It doesn’t matter how good the food or the atmosphere or the company. When fear is present and being “served” in the room, there is only attentiveness to worry and danger.

It makes it hard to enjoy food, space or surroundings. It makes it hard to enjoy joy even when joy is present and close by.

There’s such relief in being open, honest and truthful now.  We can verbalize why childhood was grueling and what healing and recovery are like.

To be invited to share my insights and experiences and to be heard, as a peer, a collaborator and someone with something to teach is affirming.

The educators and advocates I worked with are fantastic.

Jane Evans is a trauma parenting & behavior expert who advocate for building ‘trauma informed’ homes, schools and communities. She’s also a speaker and the author of How are you feeling today Baby Bear? and Kit Kitten and the Topsy-Turvy Feelings

Dr. Vaughn Lauer is the author of When the School Says No… How to Get to Yes! Securing Special Education Services for Your Child. As a special education teacher and child-centered advocate he works with parents, children and schoos systems to create and implement effective IEP plans.

Melissa Sadin is an expert in developmental trauma. She combines her professional experiences as an educator and school administrator with her personal experiences as an adoptive parent who knows first-hand about trauma and attachment issues. She uses what she’s learned to help create trauma-sensitive schools and to educate parents and educators on the impact of developmental trauma on individuals, schools and communities.

Tyler Burke who is the founder of Training Venue which is a collaborative platform for human service professionals who want to get training from the comfort of home that is easy to use and interactive.

It was lovely to be regarded as an equal, expert and collaborator. Healing even. But it’s more than that – it’s a good way to improve services, protocols, policies and lives.

The full link to the 50-minute video:




You Matter Mantras

  • Trauma sucks. You don't.
  • Write to express not to impress.
  • It's not trauma informed if it's not informed by trauma survivors.
  • Breathing isn't optional.

You Are Invited Too & To:

Speak Your Mind