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Thursday, 27 April 2017
 
 
Straight Talk Print
When a child undergoes sudden separation from the birth mother, the wiring in the brain may be affected. This doesn’t just apply to international adoption. Attachment specialists work with children whose adoptive parents were present in the delivery room. Premature infants who remain with their biological families may develop attachment issues due to the separation inherent with hospitalization. But children who have been adopted internationally are at certain risk for attachment problems. They have undergone separation from birth mothers and subsequent caregivers. They may have been prenatally exposed to high levels of their birth mothers’ stress hormones. Many have undergone painful medical procedures. All have sudden, dramatic change in environment and culture. These kids are at risk.

The Good News

Successful treatment for attachment disorders is as high as 100% for infants and 90% for toddlers. Up to about 33 months of age, the brain is very malleable. That window of opportunity is significant for the longterm emotional health of the child and the family.

Earlier the Better

Many parents of infants and toddlers miss attachment-related symptoms because they mirror “normal” early childhood behaviors. Even with some concerns they may decide to "wait it out," hoping that what they're seeing is a developmental stage that the child will grow out of. But attachment disorders don't just go away--although symptoms may change as the child enters new developmental stages. For example, a baby who will go happily to any stranger may become a toddler who wanders off at the store…to a school child who seems to prefer other families to his own…to a teenager who is sexually promiscuous.

Therapists report that parents often bring children in for the first time when they reach school age. The child may have friendship problems or show aggressive behaviors. Learning problems may be related to a lack of concentration—hypervigilance that is often misdiagnosed as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD.) Reading may be a struggle as eye movement is connected to the neurological problems in the pons portion of the brain.

As children with attachment problems grow, they may be misdiagnosed with a variety of conditions: ADHD, Aspergers or other autism spectrum disorders including PDD-NOS, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), or bipolar disorder. Medications may be effective in treating other conditions, but no medication will cure an attachment disorder. Families do well to consult with attachment professionals, even as they work with others in the medical community.

If parents suspect attachment issues, they are wise to consult with a specialist as early as possible.

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