Recently I had the opportunity to attend a professional development concerning poverty and the effect it has on the brain.
The link for the video we were presented with can be seen here: https://youtu.be/6i105vkXVok
I was struck by a few main points. A child’s brain has the same reaction to multiple stressful situations as it does to trauma. For instance a child who suffers from hunger, emotional abuse, and academic deficits can essentially over the long term have the same brain trauma as a child in a car accident. Children who suffer in a car accident suffer outwardly, while these other stressors are often inward. They used the term “invisible backpack” to describe this.
This continued stress and trauma can in fact eventually lead the child to not only have a learning deficit but they can even lose brain cells. Eventually researchers have found the continued stress over the long term even results in the child’s genes being altered. These alterations leave them more susceptible to anger, violence, poor decision making, and substance abuse.
It was pointed out quickly that it is not a matter of just one or two of these “stressful situations” but when they combine and extend over the course of childhood that is when you will find actual brain trauma.
As educators and leaders it is vital to be aware of these consequences and make sure we are doing our part to alleviate as many of these circumstances as we can.