Developmental trauma occurs when a child is traumatized during critical early growth periods. Often in the first two years of life. This trauma alters brain development and requires a therapeutic approach that understands what was missed and how to begin repair. I let parents know that repair starts with regulation.
Dr Perry encourages repetitive motion for the child throughout the day. This can include a variety of things like rocking, massage, drumming, dancing, swinging. It is remarkable how these moments of repetition spaced throughout the day can begin to calm a reactive brain. The idea is to replicate what was missed by the baby who was not regularly rocked and soothed so that the brain can develop patterns of regulation. Parents my want to skip this step and move on to the real work but this is the real work of repair.
At the same time the parent learns to be the child’s co regulator. A sequence of regulating first, then relating to what happened and finally reviewing is put into play. It might look something like this. Child explodes over younger sibling destroying his Lego structure; Regulate, “lets take a break and walk”. Relate “wow that was frustrating, I can tell that your really angry. ” Review “ well you know you can’t push your brother, what do you think we should do? What can you do now?”
Many forms of therapy can be used to treat the trauma in little doses that a child can handle but they cannot begin until the child has some increase regulatory capacity. Here is Dr. Perry with more detail on regulate, relate and review. He speaks to how triggers from a child’s previous experiences can color his/her view of the parents response.
If you would like to read more blogs from the Center about trauma please click on the link.
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