Scans show children’s brain function

(Photo: Ann E. Knudsen)

To the conference Learning and Mastering d. 13 November 2017 neuropsychology researcher Ann E. Knudsen gave a presentation on the brains of children in care, and with the help of scanning images she has analysed the brain function of children in care and traumatised children. When children are neglected, they can suffer brain damage as nerve tissue and brain cells disappear. For example, scans of a 3-year-old child suffering from neglect show that the brain has shrunk significantly compared to a healthy peer. Another example is a Romanian orphan whose brain activity looks half-closed compared to a child in well-being – especially in the area that connects the frontal lobe with the limbic system, the basis of empathy, empathy and empathy.

She also points out that children who have also been exposed to violence may lack a link between the frontal lobe and emotional intelligence (the limpic system), as their survival strategy has been to shut off their emotions and their own consciousness in order not to feel the violence on their own body. Although the brain may be damaged as a result of a tough upbringing, there are fortunately good opportunities to develop and stimulate the brain throughout life, as it is plastic, and here Ann E. Knudsen encourages educational staff working with children in care or in neglect to:

  • If the child has not developed empathy, it is no use saying “you can understand that…”, “look how upset she gets when you…”. Instead, staff need to be the child’s frontline by showing direction, authority and structure, because children thrive on seeing adults taking responsibility and being able to relax and be children.
  • If children can’t concentrate on maths lessons, for example, staff can also act as the children’s headphones and get things moving for 20 minutes. physical activity, as it sharpens brain activity.
  • Scans show that close and meaningful relationships with an adult can change children’s brain activity and promote learning, which is why it’s important to create healthy attachments to adults.
  • Singing, playing and reading with children in care can create more connections between the nerve cells in their brains. In this way they can move to a better starting point.

Pandelap is a very used word in treatment at Alfa-Fredensborg, as a large part of the young people placed with us, as well as the adult residents, have damaged the pandelap’s connection to emotional intelligence due to neglect and abuse challenges. In our psychoeducations, we often talk about frontal lobes that are not functioning optimally and that can lead to relapses, stress conditions and inappropriate actions. Therefore, as staff, we are very concerned with acting as the resident’s frontline when our residents need to be guided to a desired behavior and out of the addiction traps. Furthermore, relational work is one of our main tools and we work towards providing vulnerable people with a healthy attachment to stable adults and also to act as a pawpaw by providing direction and structure.