Neuropsychological Functioning in Children with Trauma Histories

Exposure to trauma, whether once or repeatedly, can severely impact children. During a time when the brain is forming and significantly developing, experiencing a traumatic situation can thwart that progress. The effects may show up a number of ways, more obviously with acting out behaviors such as fighting with peers or impulsivity. However, the impact of trauma can also lead to inattention and distractibility.

Children with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and exposure to trauma (for example, witnessing violence in the neighborhood or home) may experience difficulties with executive function, memory, and learning. Specifically, they tend to learn a bit slower and struggle to remember what they have learned more than their peers who have not been exposed to trauma. This can impact their academic performance, as well as lead to challenges with their families and friends.

Children who exhibit these kinds of symptoms after exposure to trauma may also have difficulties with talking about what they experienced. Because they may not be able to understand or organize all of this confusing, terrifying information related to their trauma, it often comes out through nightmares or flashbacks. This can be so scary for children and amplify their symptoms enough to reach clinical levels if they do not have adequate support and help.

Thankfully, with the help of a licensed professional, children can gain the tools to process and heal from their trauma. If your children or any children you know are exhibiting these signs and you are in the Chicagoland area, please do not hesitate to reach out to Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. at 708-633-8000.

Written by Kathryn

2021 Graduate Intern

Samuelson, K. W., Krueger, C. E., Burnett, C., & Wilson, C. K. (2010). Neuropsychological functioning in children with posttraumatic stress disorder. Child Neuropsychology16(2), 119-133.

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