By Ana B. Ibarra
Understanding and overcoming the effects of a difficult childhood are essential for a healthy adult life, at least according to Dave Lockridge’s research findings.
Lockridge, 61, is the founder and executive director of ACE Overcomers, a local program that focuses on helping people understand the mental, physical and cognitive effects of adverse childhood experiences.
The Atwater resident offers weekly faith-based and community-based classes in Merced County and travels across the country presenting his ACE Overcomers curriculum, a compilation of a decade of research.
Currently, Lockridge’s curriculum, titled “Overcoming a Difficult Childhood,” is being used in a number of states and Canadian provinces, he said.
According to Lockridge, early childhood stressors, such as abuse, neglect or a dysfunctional household, produce emotional and physiological changes in a person that causes them to take on destructive behaviors that cause their early death.
“We teach people to calm their nervous system and become better aware of their responses, and to monitor and then moderate what they’re doing,” he said.
Lockridge said in the five years of his program’s existence, he has seen scores of people labeled with various disorders. “I’ve seen people with eating disorders, ADHD, ADD, bipolar disorder, but really there was nothing wrong with them. They had just experienced a stressful childhood,” he said.
The program helps these people manage their emotions and behaviors, encouraging them to lead productive lives, he said. ACE Overcomers has also been introduced to school officials in an attempt to better understand the causes and effects of children’s and teens’ behaviors.
Lockridge first became interested in studying psychology about 11 years ago during his time as a pastor in the Central Valley.
“I kiddingly say that pastors only have two jobs: we marry and we bury. The problem is I was burying more people than I was marrying,” he said. “People who had the genetics to live up to their 80s, I was burying them way too early.”
Lockridge returned to school and obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology. “This way I can marry biblical principles with solid science and create a program that is scientifically sound and yet biblically accurate,” he added.
The former pastor also offers classes at the Merced County Rescue Mission and serves as an intervention specialist at Yosemite and Sequoia high schools. He is also a chairman for the Family Wellness Council of Merced County.
Recently, Lockridge approached UC Merced, where a team of researchers is studying his program’s effectiveness.
Don Caballero, a pastor and program director at the Madera County Rescue Mission, took Lockridge’s leadership class that would enable him to become a facilitator. Caballero now teaches a four-hour ACE class at the Madera County jail every Friday.
According to Caballero, many of the inmates connect with the class. He’s witnessed how inmates come to a realization that their tough childhood experiences did in fact play a role in their adult choices, he said.
Caballero believes the ACE Overcomers works not only because of all the research and science the program is based on, but because of Lockridge’s genuine interest in restoring lives and families.
“He is so passionate about what he is doing,” Caballero said. “His hope is to see lives transform, and that makes all the difference in the world.”