Cognitive Activity

Part I:

  • Discuss the impact of environment on brain development. Support this point with at least one scholarly source in addition to the course text.

A child’s brain development is impacted by their environment. By environment it mean their home life, their interaction with other children, physical activity, and their educational experiences. Each of these environments is influential to the child’s brain development and behaviors. An article published by Diamond and Whitington (2015) states, “that the quality of children’s earliest environments is critical to the strength of their developing brains’ architecture” (page 11). Children exposed to a neglectful or abusive home life will likely withdraw from social events and activities, potentially leading also to academic underachievement. Farrar and Montgomery (2015) suggest that “families in which parents drink, smoke, or model risky behavior increase the likelihood that adolescents will engage in those behaviors” (Section 3.3). This shows how environments influence decisions.

  • Explain the concept of neuroplasticity as it relates to positive and negative life experiences. Please provide a specific example to support your thinking.

“Neuroplasticity refers to the physiological changes in the brain that happen as the result of our interactions with our environment. It is the basis for much of our cognitive and physical rehabilitation practices” (Campbell, 2011). Changes in the brain can happen for a number of reasons. A negative life experience that may induce neuroplasticity may be a child in an abusive home. Instead of a child developing their learning about their surroundings, they are using their survival instincts. “The brain maintains a capacity to reshape and reorganize in response to physical and cognitive activity” (Johansen-Berg & Duzel, 2016, para. 1). A positive life experience, such as a mother who reads to her child every night, supports the brain to develop words, language and understanding.

Part II: Article: Complex Trauma in Children and Adolescents

  • Based on the article you chose, discuss how poverty and/or a specific type of trauma impacts brain development and behavior.

The article discussed complex trauma which is the exposure to multiple traumatic events. “Toddlers or preschool-aged children with complex trauma histories are at risk for failing to develop brain capacities necessary for regulating emotions in response to stress” (Cook, Spinazzola, Ford, Lanktree, Blaustein, Sprague, van der Kolk, 2007, page 5). The seven primary domains of impairment of children suffering from complex trauma are: attachment, biology, affects regulation, dissociation, behavioral regulation, cognition, and self-concept (Cook, et. al., 2007). Children exposed to multiple traumatic events (such as abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, are more likely to feel stressed and behave erratically – even violently. “Children of abusive and neglectful parents demonstrate impaired cognitive functioning by late infancy when compared with non-abused children” (Cook, et. al., 2007, page 6).

  • Explain how you will use this “trauma informed” perspective in understanding and working with children.

Being informed of complex trauma gives me the insight to recognize behaviors in children who are suffering from it. Look at how the child expresses their emotions as well as how they adjust or regulate their internal experiences (Cook, et. al., 2007, page 5). You should question when a child is unloving, violent, or emotionally unstable.

  • Discuss what you would do differently as a professional now that you have this knowledge and if your view of “trauma” has changed?
  • Describe what approach you might take when you need to talk to a family about a situation where the child’s academic performance and/or behavior is being impacted by trauma. What specifically would you want to discuss with the family?

People are not always welcoming to negative acknowledgements so it is imperative to approach a family, about their child’s academic performance or behavior being impacted by trauma, lightly.A family who is educated about effects of complex trauma may be able to recognize it better and take action to prevent future trauma.

Campbell, PsyD, C. (2011). What Is Neuroplasticity?.

Cook, A., Spinazzola, J., Ford, J., Lanktree, C., Blaustein, M., Sprague, C., … van der Kolk, B. (2007). Complex trauma in children and adolescents. Focal Point, 21(1), 4-8.

Diamond, A., & Whitington, V. (2015). Studying early brain development: Educators’ reports about their learning and its applications to early childhood policies and practices. Australasian Journal Of Early Childhood, 40(3), 11-19.

Farrar, M. J. & Montgomery, D. (2015). Cognitive development of children: Research and application [Electronic version].

Johansen-Berg, H., & Duzel, E. (2016). Neuroplasticity: Effects of physical and cognitive activity on brain structure and function. NeuroImage, 131, 1-3.

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