developmental trauma signs

Why We All Need to be Aware of the 6 Signs of Developmental Trauma

What is Developmental Trauma (C-PTSD)

For many years now, mental health professionals have focused primarily on the shock engendered by the trauma of extreme events such as those encountered in war, accidents or as a result of molestation. What has been largely overlooked is the second type of trauma no less insidious, pervasive or real. It is known as developmental trauma or Complex PTSD.  

Developmental trauma is the result of seeming invisible childhood experiences of being mistreated or abused that have been repeated many times. These cumulative experiences could involve verbal abuse, neglect or manipulation by a parent. Since the young child has no way to control the maltreatment and no hope of escape, these repeated experiences often traumatize the child.  

A child who is raised in the toxic environment of parental inconsistency, emotional abandonment, danger or unpredictability is left to suffer from “invisible trauma” that ensures both psychological and often neurological disruption.

While it is fairly easy to recognize physical or sexual abuse, the devastating impact of having deficient or harmful parents can easily elude our awareness. Because of the difficulty in identifying the emotional damage inflicted by alienation or emotional abandonment, children who suffer such wounds are often left bewildered and feeling confused by their pain.  

Despite the hidden nature of this epidemic, there is a growing body of research that has connected many psychological problems to these chronic emotional injuries endured in childhood. It is important for parents and mental health professionals to become familiar with the symptoms of developmental trauma if these children have any hope of leading normal lives.    

The Warning Signs of Developmental Trauma   

1. Deep-Seated Shame

The child may consistently express a sense of being defective in some way- being stupid, ugly, fat, disgusting or permanently flawed in some other way.  The verbal cues may be any one of the following: “There is something wrong with me”, “Nothing that I ever do is good enough”, “I am bad”. Indications of such toxic self-hatred may be the precursor to self-harm or even thoughts of suicide.

2. A Sense That There is No Ground and Powerlessness

Children suffering from developmental trauma feel that they are lacking a foundation in this world. Lacking this “ground” contributes to a feeling of powerlessness and even feeling inappropriate inside their own bodies. This often results in feeling vulnerable to becoming easily overwhelmed to feeling like “I’m breaking down”.

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3. Becoming Hopeless and Despairing About Life

Children who have experienced chronic emotional trauma develop a sense of hopelessness that they will ever be understood. This despair can lead to losing the sense that life has any meaning. Faith in people and in continuing such a meaningless existence can fade leaving the child seemingly incurably despondent.  

4. Hyper-Vigilance and Inexplicable Fear

It is well known that those who suffer trauma live with an activated amygdala, which is experienced as a constant state of arousal. This reinforces the sense of persistent danger lurking. The child who suffers developmental trauma often cannot relax is often jumpy or irritable and may have trouble remaining asleep. Due to the trauma, the child lives with an incessant sense of being threatened, albeit inexplicable.

5. Emotional Regulation Difficulties

The child may be persistently sad or depressed, subject to unpredictable mood swings, inappropriate explosions of anger, or susceptible to triggers by external events exhibiting the inability to control emotional responses.

6. Feeling Isolated and Disconnected

Since developmental trauma often has its roots in attachment trauma- never forming the vital parental bond, the child grows up feeling unwelcome in the world. This results in the chronic difficulty in feeling connected to one’s self and others. This may result in a sense of deep loneliness and isolation. There may be simultaneously both an intense need for contact and fear of such contact.

Developmental Trauma is a silent killer. We need to recognize the symptoms in our children and get them the help that they need while there is still time to heal their deep wounds.

teletherapy speech impediment

Your Kid’s Speech Impediment Got You Down? (The 5 Stages of Acceptance)

You know that your child is amazing. And even now that your best friend just told you that your child’s language development is lagging, your child is indeed not any less amazing. But you are shocked! What does this mean? Are you to blame? Is it your genes or perhaps your parenting? Relax, your child is normal and so are your feelings.

That being said, you need to better comprehend what you are experiencing. Parents need to understand the stages through which they will pass in the process of coping with the awareness of their child’s disability.

This is necessary for two reasons. Without a proper understanding of what to expect, they will likely suffer unnecessary guilt and anxiety. But perhaps even more significant is that as long as parents don’t fully accept their child’s disability, the parent handicaps the child further through the parent’s inability to adequately direct the critical focus and energies to help the child deal with the problem.

Research has shown that most parents pass through five stages upon receiving news of their child’s disability. It is important to realize that every parent is different. As such, with some parents, a phase may be skipped or even repeated after passing through to another stage. Regardless, it is helpful to know the necessary continuum that most can expect.

Here, the five stages parents you can expect to encounter once you get the news from a qualified professional about your child’s disability.

1. Denial  

It is perfectly reasonable to go into shutdown mode when you get the news. “How could this be?” It’s known as “freeze,” and you may not even ask simple questions as you are taken aback by something you didn’t expect. You may feel dejected, and some parents even cry, or even laugh inappropriately as you are still unable to process what just happened.

After your initial reaction, the most important thing is to climb out of that hole of fear by becoming educated about your child’s condition. As you begin to acquire knowledge and gain understanding regarding your child’s speech impediment, you will become more calm and balanced.

2. Anger  

Parents are wired to protect their babies, and quite often fathers are even angrier than mothers at this stage. Anger is really an extension of denial. This anger is the reflection of the inability to deal with the reality, and like anything that crosses us, it often results in anger.

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The anger may take either an aggressive form such as rage or be passive and cause the parent to become withdrawn. It could even result in the parent verbally abusing the speech professional who did the evaluation!

The first thing to do is to increase your tolerance level to stave off powerful emotions. Dissolving anger begins with taking care of yourself and adopting a healthier lifestyle, at least temporarily. And if that doesn’t help some anger management tactics may be in order.

3. Bargaining

Some parents think that if they will really do their homework and dig down deep into the internet, they will find some rare cure for the speech or language problem with which their child has been saddled. Often when a mother is desperate about her child, she will believe anything. It will require considerable self-control, but follow the lead of the therapists and shelve your search for that magic bullet!

4. Depression

When you reach stage four you are plagued by that nagging, “Will my child ever be alright?”  This stress and anxiety can be toxic and migrate into other areas of your life as well, and sometimes negatively impact your child who is already dealing with enough!

It is high time to cultivate some self-love and compassion. Relax. The solution to your child’s problem requires the implementation of a process. This may be the time to call in family members or close friends for support. Reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness but rather an indication of strength. You are dedicated to helping your child!  

5. Acceptance

Finally, loving parents will become resigned to the reality that their child has speech or language impairment. This isn’t what you wanted, but once you reach this stage, you will finally feel more peaceful and relaxed.  From this new orientation, you will be able to help your child infinitely more which is what you sincerely desire.

With this new found acceptance you will be able to work constructively with the SLP and find ways to encourage your child as she sets out on the journey of surmounting her challenge. What you may notice is something else as well, a very precious fringe benefit- a more profound love and a different sense of closeness to your amazing child!

rural therapist isolation

4 Ways to Overcome Rural Therapist Isolationism

Therapist Isolation is a Real Problem

Sometimes therapists take little things for granted. Let’s say that you left your session plan at home and needed one in a fix. Or what if you want to drop by a fellow clinicians room to chat about a new idea?  These and other everyday events can be the rarest of luxuries when you are the only therapist for miles!

Let’s face it. Isolation is a real and enduring challenge for many rural therapists. Lacking the opportunities to connect with others in your field and learn from peers deprives rural therapists of one of their most important learning opportunities. Aside from cross-pollinating with other therapists, there are other professional development drawbacks.

Many of those professional development opportunities take place in significant universities and urban areas, easily accessible to most therapists but not to rural ones. Traveling hours away to attend a seminar or conference is often infeasible for rural therapists. Also, it is often difficult to find a substitute to cover the absent therapist.

Aside from the educational benefit of the seminar or conference is the opportunity to build relationships with other therapists. If participation is so challenging, relationship building is all but impossible.

What are some creative ways for therapists to connect and learn from each other?

4 Ways to Erase Therapist Isolation

1. Edcamp Collaboration

Therapists can now subscribe to an Edcamp board online. These are virtual platforms designed to facilitate the connection of speech, occupational, and mental health, therapists regardless of location. Now with high-resolution providers such as GoToMeeting and Zoom, this virtual solution is the “next best thing to being there.”

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2. Virtual Classroom

A virtual classroom is essentially a weekly chat online where featured therapists assume the spotlight and share from their expertise. Often these webinars are recorded so that those unable to attend can still benefit. What’s more, many of these opportunities offer continuing education credits for participating.

3. Virtual PLC

Sometimes virtual classrooms can be taken to the next level by providing an opportunity to segue into virtual professional learning communities (PLCs). In other words, current technology can allow the rural therapist to attend the conferences previously unavailable due to geographical constraints.

4. Virtual Personalized Development

Virtual Personalized Development (PD) is now available online. Services are now provided by experts in the various therapeutic fields that will hone in on a clinician's particular needs. Previously these were only available in person, which made them cost prohibitive for most. Now, the therapist essentially hires an online tutor.

In this cyber world we live in, geographical constraints are being removed almost daily. In the same way that teletherapy is making headway in providing therapy for children from a distance, connecting therapists through our new virtual reality is slowly becoming the norm.

Rural therapists no longer need to remain in isolation as in the past. Modern technology has created possibilities that only a few short years ago seemed unimaginable. Everyone stands to gain – the children, the parents, the therapists, and the school administrators.

mental health myths

Why Are These 6 Mental Health Myths So Dangerous?

It is so much easier to empathize with pain suffering that we can see. Our heart goes out to a child missing a limb or bald as a result of chemotherapy. However, to feel the pain of a child who has an emotional disorder is less obvious and consequently doesn’t receive our empathy.

Part of the problem is that many kids do whatever they can to keep their emotional problems and pain a secret. For others, the symptoms aren't recognized or are misunderstood. But aside from being unable to identify a child’s illness, many of us unwittingly continue to remain in the dark due to certain myths that are taken as fact.

The time has come to crack open those mental health myths so we can help the children.

MYTH #1  The Origin of Emotional Disorders is Poor Parenting

While it goes without saying that a child’s relationships with his/her parents and the home, in general, can exacerbate an emotional disorder, save for outright abuse, it is unlikely that that poor parenting is the cause of a psychological disorder. Diseases such as autism, depression and even anxiety often have a biological source. However while not the cause, parents are crucial in their child’s recovery.

MYTH #2  Personal Weakness is the Culprit Behind Emotional Problems

It is often difficult for the untrained eye to separate the symptoms of an emotional disorder from a child’s character and personality. Anxiety, depression and even impulsive behavior seem to define who the child is.

But emotional problems are no more indigenous to a personality type than leukemia or asthma.  Just because a child is suffering doesn’t mean that he/she is weak. What’s more, children often lack the tools to overcome their emotional problems, so we often confuse that suffering with weakness.  

Let’s not confuse mental strength with mental health.  In the same way that a child who has diabetes could be physically strong, so too a child who is depressed could be mentally strong. Even children can choose to build mental strength despite suffering from a mental health problem.

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MYTH #3  Children With Emotional Disorders are Damaged Goods for Life

Psychological disorders are not life sentences. Just because a child is suffering emotionally doesn’t condemn him/her to a life of dissatisfaction and sadness. Children whose struggles are acknowledged and treated have an excellent chance to become healthy adults. While some problems such as schizophrenia appear to be incurable, most emotional problems are treatable.

MYTH #4  Left Alone, Children Will Generally Outgrow Their Emotional Problems

On the contrary, left alone, it is more likely that children will suffer more debilitating conditions than outgrow their mental health problems. Generally speaking, emotional problems untreated in children mushroom into more complex and challenging problems in adulthood.

Interventions are often more effective when they are begun in childhood due to the responsiveness of a child’s brain.

MYTH #5  If a Kid Exerts Enough Willpower the Emotional Problem Will Subside

A psychological disorder is far more than a temporary mood swing or mild anxiety. Leaving the child alone, often the dysfunction and severe distress of an emotional disorder will impact practically every area of a child’s life.

Children lack the experience, knowledge, and skill to manage such daunting challenges and ADHD, anxiety or depression. It is only when children are assisted through treatment that they can hope to restore normalcy to their lives.

MYTH #6  Therapy and Medication are a Waste of Time

Recent research has shown that there is a window of opportunity, in a child’s first few years, where interventions such as therapy and medication are generally more effective. Excellent treatment and carefully dispensed medication can set a child on the path to a productive and happy life that would be nearly impossible otherwise.

Bottom Line

It is critical to completely debunk these common myths about children’s emotional disorders if we hope to help more kids get the help they need and deserve.