Trauma and the Developing Brain
By Judith Aronson-Ramos, MD
There is a growing awareness of the harmful effects of trauma on human beings. Popularization of the Adverse Child Events Study (ACES) and media coverage of trauma informed care have increased awareness. Understanding the traumatic effects of larger issues such as war, natural disasters, and politico-economic stress to smaller scale communities such as our own in Parkland and others which carry the legacy of devastating school shooting has become part of ongoing conversations about traumatized communities. Some experts argue that currently our society as whole is traumatized – post pandemic, rising gun violence, and political rancor and divisiveness. While this may be true, I think its important to remember some of the most vulnerable among us, young children, also experience the effects of traumas both large and small. As a pediatrician, I am trained to identify and help parents and young children with factors impacting health and wellbeing.
Young children are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of trauma due to the brain being in a state of rapid growth and development. Stress hormones when chronically elevated can change brain structures. Effects on what is called the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-axis) can result in hyper and/or hypo arousal states affecting learning and behavior. There is also evidence that traumatized children process emotional information differently and are primed through a structure called the amygdala to preferentially detect threat in their daily experiences. There is even an area of the brain called the vmPFC (ventro-medial prefrontal cortex) essential in processing social-emotional information which neuroimaging studies have shown is reduced in thickness in abused vs non-abused children.
Understanding this information is meant to highlight the importance of identifying and keeping aware of young children who are exposed to or are experiencing trauma as this group may not be as vocal as others. Parents, teachers, and therapists need to be sensitive to these issues, so young children receive the care and support they need. By reminding all of us of these basic neurodevelopmental facts I hope we can look a little deeper when we see children from traumatized communities or events displaying a range of symptoms which at first glance can be mistaken for disruptive behavior disorders, inattention, consequences of poor parenting or anxiety and other disorders. We need to always use our trauma informed understanding to be sure we are not overlooking important causal factors. A through history specifically asking about direct or indirect exposure to trauma is critical. Remember passive trauma from exposure to media and traumatized adults can have real effects on children.
As we approach the 5th year since the MSD shooting as well as the ongoing trauma of the current trial, we need to remember the smallest voices among us. Through our understanding as parents and professionals we can insure the very young are not overlooked.
For more information on the effects of trauma on young children and development see the resources below:
Brain Matters https://youtu.be/Rw_aVnlp0JY
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network https://www.nctsn.org
It’s been almost 5 years since the tragedy on February 14, 2018 that united us as an organization. As therapists, we have been working so hard to be there for our community through the many challenges and tragedies our country has faced, now it's time to treat ourselves. Brought to you by Professionals United for Parkland, Futures Recovery Healthcare, Coral Shores Behavioral Health and Next Level Recovery for a day of wellness focused on burnout remediation through interactive presentations including discussion, movement and stress reduction activities that you can do at home too. Dress comfortably. A continental breakfast will be available when you arrive and lunch/networking will close out our day. Sign up for this FREE event today to save your spot, spots will go quickly. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. This free event is hosted by Professionals United for Parkland to support mental health counselors, social workers, marriage & family therapists, school psychologists, psychologists and psychiatrists serving the MSD and tri-county communities.
Coral Shores Behavioral Health is a state-of-the-art freestanding psychiatric hospital since June 2017. The hospital is located in Stuart, Florida, on the beautiful Treasure Coast, just 30 minutes North from West Palm Beach. CSBH has 80 inpatient beds and serves children, adolescents, adults and older adults. Services include - Crisis Intervention and Stabilization; Medication Management; Individual and group counseling; Psychoeducational Groups, Recreational Therapy; Patient and Family Education; Discharge and aftercare planning. Outpatient treatment services provide a framework for recovery and healing and can include Adult PHP, Adult IOP, and Adolescent IOP. Available both in office or virtual. CSBH is the only Baker Act receiving facility in Martin County.
Futures Recovery Healthcare offers a comprehensive detox and residential program for substance abuse and co-occurring conditions, a residential program for primary Mental Health needs, and Orenda concierge program, the Rise experiential program, and intensive outpatient and outpatient services. Futures also offer specialized services for our First Responders and Veterans, those with chronic pain and those with trauma. Futures emphasizes individualized approaches to address the complexity of behavioral healthcare concerns, high-quality and compassionate care, the importance of establish an ongoing continuum of integrated care, and the value of alumni involvement. Futures Recovery Healthcare is accredited by The Joint Commission and the Agency for Health Care Administration.
If you should find yourself or someone you know in immediate crisis or need for help, dial 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. Some other resources for immediate crisis support include:
211 – In Florida, and many areas, most counties will have a dedicated 211 resource hotline. Dial 211 from your phone to be connected to your local 211 branch. This may depend on where you’re calling from if it’s from your Cell Phone.
Crisis Text Line – Text any word (Help, Talk, etc.) to 741741 to be connected via text to a trained crisis counselor.
Paational Suicide Prevention Hotline – Until the 3-digit hotline number is active later in 2022, the original number will still be the one to use – 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).P al. al. al a Our Mission “Professionals United for Parkland was created to identify and meet the short and long-term needs related to mental health/well-being of the South Florida community in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas tragedy through evidence-based services including education for the general community and professionals, clinical training, clinical services, support for clinicians, and more. We work alongside other local organizations and groups to ensure that we identify gaps in current services and that the needs of our community are being adequately addressed. We are entirely non-political.
Professionals United For Parkland Honors the 17
Professionals United for Parkland remembers Cara Loughran. Cara Dances On is our effort to continue her beautiful legacy, by making college scholarships available to her fellow students at Drake School of Irish Dance FL. Two scholarships will be awarded annually. This Scholarship will be presented to someone whom has truly represented the spirit of Cara.
To learn more: https://caradanceson.net/
PU4P Updates Interested in joining our trauma trained therapists (licensed only) - please take a few moments of your time and join the PU4P referral directory. The MSD community will need services for the long run. PU4P links those in need with a vetted list of trauma therapists. We ask for a commitment of 2 pro-bono clients a year. For more information or questions, please contact email@example.com. Please support PU4P by designating it as your charity with The AmazonSmile Foundation. They will donate 0.5% of the purchase price from your eligible smile.amazon.com purchases. Don't forget to check our Facebook page for the most current events, updates, and information about PU4P! Thank you for your support of PU4P and your dedication to the Parkland community.