Tag Archives: brain development

* * NOWHERE TO HIDE * * Danny’s Memory

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Danny is an eight-year-old boy haunted by memories of fear.

Danny’s subconscious, or “implicit” memories can cause sudden outbursts anywhere, including his school classroom, which include guttural cursing, screaming, ripping  papers or books, flipping desks, flying objects, sprinting off down the hall, then slumping over in tears and heavy sobbing.

Outsiders, looking on often see the behavior as “anger”.

Danny’s visible, outward behavior starts with a internal ‘trigger’.  The trigger is unseen to us and usually unknown to Danny,  but it’s a powerful sensation and an overwhelming force engraved in Danny’s life.

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Danny’s developmental trauma memories relate to his mom.  Her dangerous, illegal street-activities,  her punishment of him with extended, icy-cold showers, her angry beatings of him and his siblings, his insecurity and fear when she was taken away to be incarcerated.  There is also his absent father:  read “more ‘fear of abandonment.'”  Then add fear and the chronic vigilance required in Danny’s drug-infested, crime-riddled neighborhood.

“Memory” is an amazing thing.  Neuroscience tell us that everyone’s brain builds “associations” or connections.  Normally, inputs from our five senses get connected to events(with time and place) and linguistics, then stored.

We call the stored associations ‘memories’, explicit memories.

Conversely, ‘survival-mode’, or fear memories,  are stored differently.  They’re called implicit memories.

In times of overwhelming fear or stress, a sensory experience is linked only to an emotion, an  extremely intense emotion. Storage of those memories is directed by ‘fear center’ of the brain (amygdala)  with no connection to time, place or language, as in ‘scared speechless’.  These sensory-focused,  “implicit” memories hang-on virtually permanently.

The brain’s siren-center, the amygdala, grows disproportionately from chronic fear-usage.

Meanwhile,  the chronic stress inhibits and diminishes the brain’s  linguistic memory system in the hippocampus.

Chronic trauma, during development,  is beginning to change the physical architecture of Danny’s brain.

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Now, Danny’s implicit fear memory trigger works as a sensory reminder in the present moment, matching a stored sensation/emotion connection from some experience in his past.

Memory “triggers” can seem disconnected and can be perplexing:

Maybe Danny’s seemingly unrelated ice-cold drink that came with our Title 1 breakfast will trigger a memory of an ice-cold shower, or  maybe a glimpse of someone’s untucked shirt or gold wrist watch will flash like in Mom’s fights.  Maybe hearing someone’s whispered curse, or seeing a simple color pattern like in Mom’s blouse.  Maybe, simply a loud startling voice.

At times, the triggers are impossible to identify, even by Danny.  The memory is not explicit:  it is only associated with intense emotion.

The room can be completely calm.  It doesn’t matter.  The fear and emotion are not in the room.  They are in Danny’s memory.  Implicit memories can be powerful, even controlling.

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Photo © Daun Kauffman
Photo © Daun Kauffman

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After a fear memory is triggered, the neurobiological alarm rings.  Danny’s heart-pounding biology is off to the races.

Danny suddenly becomes aggressive in class, shoving classmates, screaming loud, insulting curses, threatening someone, throwing books, throwing chairs, or maybe sprinting out of the building. Why?  All Danny’s ‘commotion’ relates to a sensory connection in his amygdala, which triggered his aggressive fear response.

Danny instinctively uses aggression to divert his own mind from his own intense fear.  It’s not related to anything Danny’s conscious of.

Photo © Daun Kauffman
Photo © Daun Kauffman

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What looks like anger to us is really Danny’s fear response.

The entire neurobiological chain reaction is nature’s logical defense to developmental trauma.

Whether abuse, family dysfunction or neglect, trauma impacts 2 out of 3 kids at some level.

Experts describe childhood trauma as a ‘national crisis’, an ‘epidemic’.  Meanwhile, Danny is losing his right to equal access.  Equal Access to an education.

Schools are not trauma-informed.
It’s morally wrong.
It’s urgent.

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Trauma-Informed adults CAN make a difference.

Get Informed.  Click on links below.

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Photo © Daun Kauffman
Photo © Daun Kauffman

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Informed already?  Then, please “share” the blog post.  Help grow awareness of this secret epidemic destroying childhoods.

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Toxic stress changes brain architecture                        CLICK HERE        (2 minute video)  

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What is a “trigger”?                                                                   CLICK HERE 

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Fear Memories: How the Brain Stores….                      CLICK HERE

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Persistent Fear, Anxiety Can Affect Learning and Development  Center on Developing Child at Harvard University       CLICK HERE 

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Understanding the Behavioral and Emotional Consequences of Child Abuse                                                                                     CLICK HERE

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More on Danny : “Peek Inside a Classroom”,                                                                                                                                                CLICK HERE

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Look for other parts of this series “Nowhere to Hide” on LucidWitness.com  for more information.

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Trigger warning:  the children’s experiences in the vignettes are unvarnished.  Their traumatic responses may trigger painful memories.

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Nowhere to Hide the Elephant in the [Class]Room   (overview)

Nowhere to Hide.  Maria Fight, flight or freeze?

Nowhere to Hide.  Andre’s fear.   What are Adverse Childhood Experiences?

Nowhere to Hide.  Jamar’s Hyperarousal

Nowhere to Hide.  Roberto’s Dissociation

Nowhere to Hide:  Danny’s Memory

Nowhere to Hide:  Ashley’s “Normal” Education?   Part 1

Nowhere to Hide:  Ashley’s “Normal” Education?   Part 2

Click below for more “Peek Inside a Classroom”;

The  original series, “Peek Inside a Classroom”, provides much more detailed looks inside my classroom, primarily focused on specific students: Jasmine, Danny and Jose.  Other vignettes are captured in broader looks at education reform concepts: “Failing Schools or Failing Paradigm?” and “Effective Education Reform.”

Peek Inside a Classroom:  Jasmine

Peek Inside a Classroom:  Danny

Peek Inside a Classroom: Jose

Peek Inside a Classroom:  Failing Schools or Failing Paradigm?

Peek Inside a Classroom:  Effective Education Reform (with Dr. Sandra Bloom, M.D.)

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“Like” us at “Trauma-Informed Pedagogy” on Facebook

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Want more ?    
CLICK FOR MORE RESOURCES:  Developmental Trauma

 

1.   Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Studies:   CLICK HERE

 2.  Impacts of Childhood Trauma: Overview               CLICK HERE

Click for Resources: Social Media on Impacts of Childhood Trauma

Click for Resources: Journal Articles on Impacts of Developmental Trauma

 3.   Trauma-Informed Schools                                               CLICK HERE 

 4.  Trauma-Informed Social Services                                CLICK HERE 

 5.   Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice                             CLICK HERE

 6.  Trauma-Informed Public Policy                                   CLICK HERE

 7.  Childhood Trauma Training and Tools                     CLICK HERE

 8.  Book and Publication selections                                CLICK HERE

9.   #800 phone numbers                                                         CLICK HERE

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“Like” us at  “Trauma-Informed Pedagogy” on Facebook