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Childhood Trauma

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Effects on the Brain and Learning, and Potential Role of the Schools Wendy Cunningham, Psy.D. Licensed Clinical Psychologist – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Childhood Trauma


1
Childhood Trauma Chronic Stress
  • Effects on the Brain and Learning, and Potential
    Role of the Schools
  • Wendy Cunningham, Psy.D.
  • Licensed Clinical Psychologist

2
Objectives
  • Show why it is important for alternative schools
    to understand trauma and chronic stress
  • Illuminate current research that links
    trauma/chronic stress with biology, environment,
    behavior, and academic performance
  • Discuss the importance of a systematic approach
    and why it is important

3
Few Important Numbers
  • Difficult to get prevalence rates however,
    studies estimate between 3.3 and 10 million
    children witness violence in their home each year
  • 2003 U.S. Department of Health
  • Reported approximately 906,000 children in
    protective custody
  • 2005 Massachusetts Department of Education
  • Informal surveys to 450 students of
    alternative-education programs in 11 school
    districts that received state funds
  • 90 of the students surveyed reported trauma
    history

4
What is a Traumatic Event
  • Many factors involved in what is considered a
    traumatic event, including
  • Threat or perceived threat to well-being of self
    or other
  • Individual temperament
  • Past experiences
  • Who is involved in the event
  • Why events affect individuals in different ways

5
Factors Impacting Trauma Reaction
6
Chronic Stress
  • See similar biological effects as with trauma
  • Less obvious than a traumatic event

7
ARE THERE BRAIN EFFECTS?
  • I could see the math teachers mouth moving in
    the classroom but couldnt hear a thing. It was
    as if I were in a soundless chamber. She was
    smiling and clearly talking, I just couldnt
    process a word of it. I had been an excellent
    math student, but the day she told me I was
    spacey and unfocused was the day I stopped
    connecting to math. My grades dropped and they
    took me out of the advanced classes.
  • Massachusetts Advocates for Children, (2005).
    Helping Traumatized Children Learn, p.24.

8
From http//www.ahaf.org/alzdis/about/AnatomyBrain
.htm
9
Emotions TWO Pathways!
Ventral Path (Low Road) Stimulus?thalamus?amygdala
? body reaction?emotion
Dorsal Path (High Road) Stimulus?thalamus?cortex?
short-term memory stores representation?long-term
memory accessed?working memory
integrates? amygdala? cortical arousal? visceral
reaction? body feedback? emotion
10
Evolutionary Favorite
  • Wiring of the brain favors emotions
  • There tends to be more connections directed from
    the limbic system to the cortex (emotion affects
    thoughts) versus cortex to limbic system (thought
    affects emotion)
  • Theories of Evolution
  • Although hypothetical, theories suggest that we
    may move towards more of a balance
  • LeDoux, J. (1998) The emotional brain. London
    Phoenix.

11
Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal System
  • http//www.cellml.org/models/jelic_cupic_kolaranic
    _2005_version02

12
Whats the Deal?
  • Incredible Shrinking Brain Effects on
    hippocampus
  • Decreased hippocampal volume
  • Lower hippocampal neural connection
  • To Stress or Not to Stress Confused stress
    response
  • Consistent survival mode
  • HPA system down-regulates
  • Unraveling chromosomes
  • Chronic stress shown to unravel telomeres (ends
    of chromosomes)
  • Unorganized brain unorganized behavior
  • Imprinting (ex. orbitofrontal cortex) and missed
    stimuli from environmental experiences
    compromises structural arrangements for
    regulation

13
Emotional Memories External Event
  • Amygdala Hippocampus
  • Implicit memory Explicit memory
  • --event was awful --who, what, where
  • --body reaction
  • Occurs together to contribute to the experience
    of the event as a whole
  • Not selective in triggers broad scope

14
Brain Stressed Out
  • Hippocampus
  • overwhelmed by glucocorticoids
  • Talk between
  • neurons disrupted
  1. No new neurons formed
  • Amygdala
  • overwhelms hippocampus

5. Prolonged glucocorticoid exposure
might damage or kill hippocampal neurons
15
Not to Mention Brain Development Issues!
  • Poor attachment experiences
  • Cognitive deficits
  • Brain unable to develop self-regulation
  • Poor sequential memory
  • Executive functioning poorly developed
  • Language instrumental vs. social/emotional

16
Implications for Learning
  • Studies show that when compared to other
    children, maltreated children have

17
We Have the Most Difficult Kids!!!!
  • What Behaviors Do You See?
  • (Think Brain Influences!)
  • Awareness important, because it can reduce anger,
    increase understanding, and improve intervention

18
What Can We Do?
19
Factors Impacting Trauma Reaction
20
Empirically Supported Interventions Include
  • Attachment/relationship focus
  • Training in affect regulation
  • Systematic desensitization/titrated exposure
  • Individual therapy
  • Symbolic play for young children
  • Age-appropriate group therapy
  • Caretaker involvement as appropriate
  • POSITIVE AND COLLABORATIVE TEAM SPIRIT is CRITICAL

21
Attachment Not just a nice idea
  • All research, both biological and psychological,
    shows that social affiliation and attachment are
    critical components of mediating effects of
    trauma and chronic stress

22
Attachment Styles, Brain Development, and Behavior
  • Attachment style psychologically based on view of
    self view of other
  • Secure positive/positive
  • Preoccupied negative/positive
  • Distant positive/negative
  • Disorganized/Fearful negative/negative
  • Research shows that traumatized kids largely
    exhibit disorganized attachment style
  • Brain organization in early development relies
    upon environment and response of caregivers
  • Research also shows executive functioning
    deficits present in disorganized attachment style
    that differentiates it from other styles

23
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24
Couple of Comprehensive Resources for Schools
  • Integrative Treatment of Complex Trauma for
    Children (ITCT-C) 2008 also manual for
    adolescents yg adults Free manual at
    www.johnbriere.com
  • Helping Traumatized Children Learn Supportive
    school environments for children traumatized by
    family violence 2005 from the Massachusetts
    Advocates for Children Trauma and Learning
    Policy Initiative. Download manual at
    http//www.massadvocates.org/helping_traumatized_c
    hildren_learn
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