Trauma, Brain and Relationship: Helping Children Heal – Everything Matters: Beyond Meds
Trauma, Brain and Relationship Helping Children Heal New Ways to Prevent and Heal Emotional Trauma in Children and Adults .. So even though this video is meant to try and teach a little bit about how the brain develops and about how. I've posted this video before because it's so excellent. If you've not seen it I highly recommend it. "Developmental trauma, or ambient trauma. In “Trauma Impacts the Brain: Healing Happens in Relationships,” . introductory video on Attachment Disorder and development trauma.
Because the brain develops so rapidly early in life, it means that 85 percent of the foundational neurobiological systems that we use for our whole life are created and organized in the first five years of life.
So, if we invest time in the lives of children when they're young, and we are respectful and we are present and we make sure that they have a wealth of relationships, so they get cognitive enrichment and social enrichment and emotional enrichment, that means that we'll have a tremendous head start on solving a lot of these problems. Until we remedy the mismatch between opportunity and investment, between the time when the brain is most easily changed and where we're spending all of our public dollars, we're never going to solve this problem.
We're spending literally 95 percent of our public dollars to change the brain, because that's what mental health is, that's what public education is, that's what juvenile justice intervention is, all of these are trying to change the brain.
We're spending 95 percent of our dollars on children at a time when their brain is much harder to modify.
We're spending almost nothing in the first five years of life when the brain is easiest to modify and it takes the least amount of professional input, the least amount of insight.
It takes just high quality caregiving during the early years of life. If you really want to understand how a child is functioning in the present, you need to understand their personal history because the brain more than anything is an historical organ.
If you understand the personal experiences of the child, you will understand a lot about how different systems in the brain are organized. So it's very important to take a high quality developmental history of that child.
One of the most important factors in a good developmental history is getting some understanding and some insights about the childrearing beliefs and practices of their caregiver, which you can usually get by asking them about their family and the way they were raised. The brain is a relatively complex organ, but it has a very sensible and simple organization. From the bottom to the top, it goes from simple to complex. The bottom part of the brain, the brainstem, is important for regulating heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature regulation, and it is the one part of the brain that has to be developed by the time you're born- because obviously you have to regulate your respirations and your heart rate and body temperature.
So, in utero, the intrauterine environment and things that happen in utero are going to shape and influence how well regulated the brainstem is. Now it turns out that the brainstem plays a major role in organizing these higher parts of the brain.
So if the brainstem is well organized, and it's smoothly regulated, it means that after birth the child is going to be easier to soothe.
On the other hand, if the brainstem, for whatever reason, it has some insult during development-it could be alcohol exposure in utero, cigarette smoking, prenatal exposure to drug or significant distress in the caregiver-for whatever reason, if the brainstem is poorly organized and over reactive and dissynchronous, the baby's born and very often they will have what we call a state regulation problem. They are hard to soothe, you can't quiet them down very well, it's hard to engage them, and it makes the caregivers feel overwhelmed.
Nadine Burke Harris: How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime | TED Talk
That leads to kind of a fractured maternal infant interaction, which can then have this whole cascade of negative effects. The caregiver doesn't feel very competent, they can't calm the child down very well, and the child stays all stirred up. Instead of having this smooth, synchronous interaction, you have kind of this bad fit. It leads to problems with normal social emotional development. When we first came out and started to talk about the probability that a traumatic experience literally changed the physical organization of the brain, there were a lot of people that were somewhat skeptical.
But in the last ten years or so, there have been more and more studies where we've been able to look at not just brain-related factors like heart rate and cortisal release and other external physiological things, we've literally been able to look at the brain.
What we've seen is that children who have been exposed to traumatic experiences have a host of abnormalities in the way key parts of their brain are organized and the way they function. So the whole idea that trauma changes the brain is now commonly accepted. The next step, of course, is can therapy and therapeutic experiences that you provide change the brain in ways that would link to recovery of function or repair following trauma.
That research is ongoing, and it is less evolved than this other research, but I'm convinced that the biological principles are the same.
The brain changes with activity.
Bruce Perry: Attachment and Developmental Trauma
We know that all parts of the brain throughout almost all ages of life can change, given the right opportunities and the right experiences. I'm convinced that over time people will begin to see that you have a child who has had a traumatic experience and they'll see one sort of abnormality in the brain. Then as a function of certain kinds of therapeutic interventions, you'll start to see changes in those parts of the brain and recovery of function.
On one hand it's absolutely logical. You cannot get changes in function unless the brain changes.Trauma, Brain & Relationship: Helping Children Heal
I mean it's not your pancreas. So if you see functional improvement in the child following therapeutic intervention, it's got to be the brain. Now we just have to sort of prove it. There's no other explanation. The next step is to investigate and know exactly which systems in the brain are going to be changed. They've been documented for traumatic experiences.
We know that traumatic events change the brain. There are a whole lot of important questions about that. A traumatic event at age one is going to cause different changes than a traumatic event at age four, because the brain is different at one and four. A different kind of traumatic event at age one is going to cause a different kind of change than another kind of traumatic event.
There literally are many, many things that we need to look at before we have complete clarity about the relationship between traumatic experiences in development and how the brain changes. But I'm convinced that we will find these changes, we will fill in all of the squares in this matrix.
In ten years we'll have the techniques that will allow us to not only track the impact of bad events, but the impact of good events, and see how positive therapeutic, nurturing events actually result in changes in the brain that have positive functional consequences.
Well, I think a lot of the answers are the same for some of these groups. If you're an adult and there are children in your life, whether you're in law enforcement, a teacher, a parent, foster parent, whatever you are, and you know that a child has been exposed to something that's potentially traumatic, the first thing that you should be aware of is that not all traumatic events lead to disastrous mental health outcomes.
In fact, the vast majority of children that are traumatized actually do pretty well. But they do need your attention, they do need your kind support, and they do need your awareness about what are warning signs that would tell you to actually take the next step and try to get some professional help. If you know that somebody in your sphere of concern has been traumatized, take the time to learn a little bit about how trauma manifests in children and adolescents.
There are lots of sources for that. Educate yourself about what the normal responses are following a trauma. It is normal after you lose a parent to be sad. It is normal to have recurring intrusive ideations after you witness a violent act. That doesn't mean that you need mental healthcare right away, but you should be aware of the length of those symptoms, you should be aware of how disruptive they are for the child, and you should reach out to the child and say, "Listen, I know this stuff happened, I'm happy that I'm here, you can come and talk about it whenever you want.
I don't want to push it on you, but you just should know that I'm okay talking about it if you just ever want to, you know, pass something by, let me know. If you find yourself, I don't know, just thinking about something again and again, you can't get it out of your head, that's an ideation.
I think I love this work because I meet the most remarkable children. I'm a curious person. I'm fascinated by the way people work and the way systems work.
I meet these amazing people, these kids that have gone through unbelievable things and they'll still play a practical joke on me. You know, they'll come up and they'll give me a high five in the hallway when they're walking through out clinic. You think you know these kids, literally some of these kids have been kept as animals for the first years of their life, and now they're walking down the hall they're wearing a Michael Jordan jersey and they high five me because the Rockets won today.
You know, it's the kind of thing that you think geez there's this little human being, and despite all these horrible things that have happened, they've got this wonderful little shred of humanity that they're clinging to, and going to make a difference.
So it's meeting these kids and meeting the people that work with them, and it's just interesting and inspiring. It just makes me feel good about the work that we do, because I think we're making a difference. There have been a couple of accidents in my life where I stumbled into this, and the first one was a very fortunate accident when I was an undergraduate at Stanford.
They have an undergraduate advisor's program where they take in the freshman class and once a week you are in a seminar with the senior faculty member. I was put into a group with a gentleman named Seymour Levine, who was very, very famous and pioneer in the area of neuroendocrinology.
He had done some fascinating studies that included one that particularly sort of caught my interest. They had found that if you took a little rat pup, pretty much a newborn rat pup, and a human being held it for a very brief period of time, which was stressful to the rat, and put the rat pup back in the litter with the mother and let the rat grow up, and then looked at its brain, it was different than animals that hadn't been handled.
So the idea that a very, very brief experience early in life could lead to a lifelong change in the physiology of the brain was just amazing to me. So I think that that was one of the reasons that I sort of ended up being fascinated about the brain. The one thing I think is really important to know about recovery from trauma is that no matter what your theoretical perspective, no matter what your therapeutic training, no matter what your approach, in the end what makes people better is what happens in a relationship.
A lot of times it's the relationships that are not therapeutic, not a therapy relationship. In fact, most therapeutic things happen out of therapy. Many things that happen in therapy aren't therapeutic. What makes children get better following a trauma is connection to other human beings: They don't need to be necessarily psychologically insightful. They need not to know anything about trauma. All they need to know is that they're right there with this child, they're trying to be comforting, they're trying to be supportive, they're trying to encourage.
Those kinds of interactions end up being much more therapeutic and healing than many of the other things that we try to do with kids. Over the last 15 years, the work that we've done at the Child Trauma Academy has been slowly creeping towards awareness and understanding of how important relationships are for healthy development.
One of the major teachers that we've had in this process has been the wisdom and the experience of the Native American peoples. In the last several years, I've had an opportunity to spend time with the Cree, Lakota, Navaho, and Apache. In each of these environments I've learned from the elders about their views on raising children, their views on health, their views on growth and education.
What we've learned from them is the importance of a continuous dynamic interaction between all members of the community.
Internationally and nationally recognized authorities who work with children and teenagers in the field of emotional trauma, including Drs. New research on the brain is highlighted, as is information about how seemingly benign incidents bring about traumatic responses in young children.
A central message of the documentary is that even though psychological trauma often goes unrecognized in children, emotional trauma is very responsive to relational repair. An outline of the documentary accompanies the video and clarifies such points as the difference between emotional trauma and emotional stress. Also available on this site are transcripts of full interviews that went into the development of the documentary.
You can also download an order form in pdf-format here. Outline Relational trauma can profoundly affect the way children think, feel and act. Trauma is more widespread than we formerly thought with a far broader imprint than that defined by PTSD.
Trauma's aftermath affects children's abilities to focus mentally, calm themselves emotionally and be aware of others. It is the source of chronic learning and attention problems, emotional and social problems and physical problems. Fortunately, all forms of trauma-including relational trauma and single incident trauma-can be readily repaired in young children.
Traumatic distress can be distinguished from routine stress by assessing the following: Specifically, the documentary focuses on three areas: Brain scans permit us to view images of the functional disruptions caused by trauma.
As a result of what we can actually see, traumatic experience takes on a vast new meaning. For the first time, we know that trauma in infants and children can be caused by any of the following disruptive neurological events that: Neural repair results from having primary relationships that calm, soothe and help a child organize their experiences.
This fact is also based on brain imaging research that reveals the tremendous plasticity of the brain -particularly in the first five years of life.
Unfortunately, the pressure of urban life greatly reduces opportunities for the kind of relationships that prevent and heal trauma in children. During the first five years of life, a child's brain remains extraordinarily plastic and amenable to recovery from trauma. Unfortunately, ninety-five percent of public funds are spent on children after the age of five when it is more difficult and expensive to affect change.
Section Overview Below each section description there is a link to view the video section in Quick Time format. If you don't have Quick Time you can download it for free - click on the button to the right. Download the free version, it is not necessary to purchase the Pro version to view our video clips. We recommend a broad band connection for viewing the video clips. The Very First Relationship 3: When children feel "seen," safe and supported, their nervous systems develop in a very coherent manner; but if they don't feel safe and connected in their primary relationships, their brains develop in a disrupted way.
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