Prevent and contain


Boy sitting on ground, knees to chet and head in arms
Boy Child Sad by Myriams-Fotos licensed under CC0.


The single most important issue for traumatised people is to
find a sense of safety in their own bodies.
Bessell van der Kolk


Overview and learning objectives

Chapter three focuses on understanding the development of the brain and the impact of trauma on its capacity to learn and adapt. This chapter is organised into the following sections:

  • How the brain develops
  • Effects of child maltreatment on brain development
  • Effects of disrupted brain development on academic and socioemotional functioning of children
  • The window of tolerance model of self-regulation

On successful completion of this chapter, you should be able to:

  • Understand the normal development of the brain and the role of its component parts in academic and socio-emotional functioning
  • Explain the impact of trauma on key areas of the brain
  • Utilise the ‘window of tolerance’ model to support traumatised students


In recent years, there has been a surge of research into early brain development. Neuroimaging technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), provide increased insight about how the brain develops and how early experiences affect that development. One area that has been receiving increasing research attention involves the effects of abuse and neglect on the developing brain, especially during infancy and early childhood. Much of this research is providing biological explanations for what practitioners have long been describing in psychological, emotional, and behavioural terms. There is now scientific evidence of altered brain functioning as a result of early abuse and neglect. This emerging body of knowledge has many implications for educators when teaching and supporting children who have experienced abuse and neglect.

This chapter provides basic information on typical brain development and the potential effects of abuse and neglect. The information is designed to help you understand the cognitive, emotional, relational and behavioural impact of early abuse and neglect in children. As we begin to explore this development, you will be introduced to a variety of new concepts and terms.



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Trauma Informed Behaviour Support: A Practical Guide to Developing Resilient Learners Copyright © 2020 by University of Southern Queensland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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