Attachment and Trauma

We think about traumatic events that are very much in the public domain either on the news or social media.

While most people recognise war, physical violence, rape, natural disasters and sexual abuse as potentially traumatizing experiences, few recognize the significant impact that long-term neglect or repeated verbal abuse and poor early childhood care can have on a child’s or young person’s emotional health and their neurological development. Few people recognise the link with trauma and attachment needs of children and young people.

Research on neurodevelopment of children and young people with attachment needs or who suffer a traumatic event shows their brains develop differently to that of an emotionally healthy child or young person. Often we do not consider or are not aware of the impact the attachment or trauma needs have on the child or young person’s development, both learning, socially and emotionally. They may just be seen as having behavioural difficulties. There is also a link with attachment and a sensory need, those ‘normal’ physical contacts with the baby such as patting ‘burping’, rocking and bouncing all stimulate the baby’s sensory needs. This provides stimulation in the normal development of the brain. Without this stimulation there is a likelihood they will develop learning delays, social impairment and having a difficult time with change.

What do you have in place to support these very socially and emotionally vulnerable children and young people? We are all aware of the importance of providing individual support for children and young people with an Autism Spectrum Condition ASC, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder ADHA or a specific learning need. Those children and young people with a learning need are soon recognised and support is provided through interventions and differentiated curriculum. Schools are starting to provide emotional, mental health and wellbeing support through the HOPE project, Relax Kids and Forest Schools, but do all staff understand the needs of these children and young people.

These children and young people need time and understanding, there is a message behind the behaviour they may be displaying. Whilst we may feel very frustrated by these behaviours it is important to consider what are they trying to communicate?

10 tips to support children and young people with attachment/trauma needs:

- Provide structure, consistency and routine

- Prepare for changes and transition

- Offer them some control over what or how they are going to do a piece of work or attend something

- Provide a trusted adult to support them

- Provide a ‘safe’ area/space/room they can go to when feeling overwhelmed or not coping

- Focus on their interests and strengths and keep acknowledging these

- Set up a box with activities they enjoy/can cope with (this can still be a curriculum/learning activity)

- Celebrate the good moments/days and acknowledge with them when they are not coping or when the behaviour is challenging

- Think emotional age not chronological age (emotionally they may be operating below age expected)

- Take care of yourself, if your own mental health and wellbeing is not addressed then you are less likely to be able to support effectively. Supporting these children and   young people is emotionally draining.

For further support on this area please contact us!