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Trauma-Sensitive Health Care

Children who have experienced toxic stressors including abuse and neglect have responses which, while adaptive in the stressful situation, can be maladaptive outside of the toxic stressor. These responses may be variable, including aggression and anger, or alternately, as depression and dissociation. Identification and accurate diagnosis of these responses to trauma can have profound implications for the child and their recovery from trauma.

Pediatricians can assist caregivers by helping them recognize the abused or neglected child’s altered responses, formulate more effective coping strategies, and mobilize available community resources.

Symptoms When Traumatic Stress Does Not Go Away Can Be Grouped into Three Main Behavioral Clusters:

  1. Re-experiencing through intrusive thoughts, dreams and “flashback” recollections.
  2. Avoidance of reminders and numbing of responsiveness, including social withdrawal, restricted range of affect and constriction of play.
  3. Physiological hyperarousal in the form of hypervigilance and exaggerated startle response, attention and concentration problems, and sleep disturbances.

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