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Early life trauma needs to be considered for therapeutic interventions to be effective

Posted in: News

Family Futures’ Response to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme coverage of ‘Callous Unemotional Traits’ 14 September 2017

Family Futures were disappointed that the case of an adopted boy was used to highlight the piece on ‘callous, unemotional’ traits on the Today programme this morning. In our experience this type of presentation in adopted and looked after children is often as a result of in utero and early infancy trauma that shapes the child’s developing brain and nervous system. This leads to highly defensive and hard wired neuro physiological and psychological responses. The majority of children placed for adoption today have come from abusive and traumatic backgrounds and this has shaped their experience of the world and their behaviour.

Traditional therapeutic interventions are not effective with this population of children. Specialist, holistic approaches based on biopsychosocial formulations are better suited to encourage the child to feel safe in the world and to develop their capacity to openly engage in reciprocal relationships with others. This bringing together of information about the interaction of biological factors, psychological factors and social factors is the approach needed for these children.

That Max’s early life experience was not considered runs a real risk of our society’s most vulnerable adopted and looked after children being pathologised and seen as inherently flawed, when in fact we need to acknowledge and address their developmental trauma early on if we cannot prevent it happening in the first instance. This means the government ensuring appropriate therapeutic interventions are available to such children and families. As in the case of Max, Family Futures often see children who other therapists have said that they cannot help, but with the right approach, significant changes can be made.

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