Executive function is a term described as the ability to regulate goal-oriented abilities, control behavior, choose thoughtfully, and control emotions. Executive functions serve as the building blocks of cognitive abilities such as problem solving, decision making, focus, and planning. Impaired executive functions can be directly linked to ADHD as many symptoms are exactly the same. Childhood trauma can hinder the development of executive functions, affecting individuals’ self-control and goal-directed behavior. When trauma interferes with the development of executive functions, a child’s potential to succeed in academic and social settings may be damaged.
Much of the time, youth experiencing trauma experience it repeatedly, resulting in long-lasting symptoms. Trauma can include the process of the child or youth being separated from their family in order to be placed into the foster care system. Most often, though, trauma in children and young adults is caused by abuse, poverty, and neglect.
“The most common cause of trauma we see is from repeated abuse and neglect by the primary caregiver for the child,” Andrew McKnight, Youth & Family Program Director, said. “We occasionally see youth [and] children who have only experienced trauma for a short period but more typically see [those] who have extensive trauma backgrounds.”
Although the source of their trauma may be in the past, the memories of the trauma can cause a youth to be unable to function properly because the situations have overwhelmed their ability to cope and interfere with daily life. Impacts of trauma can cause development of behaviors such as anger, violence, hyperactivity, difficulties in concentration, an inability or resistance to trust anyone, and a lack of empathy and selfish thought patterns.
The Matthews House Impact
Our staff is made up of trauma-informed, compassionate individuals who walk alongside our youth and families as they process and navigate the trauma they’ve experienced. In additional to case management with youth, we also offer educational support to parents such as practical techniques to use in the home, advocacy for foster/kin families within the system, help with transitions, de-escalation and co-regulation techniques, help finding appropriate activities for the child. Executive function damage is not permanent. Intervention programming and strong support systems can help empower and strengthen those whose lives have been affected by trauma.