Kim Woods

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Gordon Jablonski

Cognitive Maltreatment and Neural Development

The cognitive maltreatment of children is obscenely prevalent. I worked in a psychiatric hospital on the west coast for many years and saw wave after wave of abused children come into the doors. They are abused emotionally, mentally, physically, sexually and in ways that are not explainable in any other way. According to Perry (2009), “The majority of these children do not receive adequate mental health services; indeed, most are not even known to be maltreated or traumatized.” (p. 9) The neural development of these abused children is disrupted and causes cognitive delays and other problems. To analyze the findings of the Perry study I would address the strengths of the neurodevelopmental approach. I see that it is strong in helping children to overcome deficits which is a good thing. There seems to be a limitation to this sort of approach but other disciplines such as psychology and social work can close the gaps. Neurobiological analysis is a good start here for helping children. One real life experience, as I mentioned above was my experience working with children in a psychiatric hospital. We used a lot of cognitive behavioral therapy techniques with these children but many had to take medications as well. Many had night terrors and would wake up in the middle of the night screaming. The psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and mental health technicians all worked together to help these children through the rough times.

 Many times these children need a lot of patience from caregivers. The Perry approach to the neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) “allows identification of the key systems and areas in the brain which have been impacted by adverse developmental experiences and helps target the selection and sequence of therapeutic, enrichment, and educational activities.” (p. 1) This system of Perry’s allows for children to be helped in many ways. According to the article, Perry’s system will ‘re-align’ many of the neurons that have been damaged from abuse. I think that any type of therapeutic system that is devised to help abused children is much appreciated by the community.

Furthermore, children who are abused often have neural deficits that can be seen right from the time they started to be abused. According to Mossler and Zeigler (2016), “Variations in synaptic growth correspond to sensitive periods in brain development. Therefore, the rate and timing of synapse and dendrite formation are important to understanding development.” (p. 5.1) There is a lot of damage that is done when children are abused. According to Reed (1990), “abused children demonstrate in their Rorschach responses idiosyncratic ways of perceiving, poorer perceptual accuracy and greater tendencies toward violations of the demands of reality. Also, overincorporative or underincorporative styles of cognitive processing were expected, and more disturbed thinking as well… (p. 8) We can see here that personality is affected as well as neural plasticity.


Perry, B. D. (2009). Examining child maltreatment through a neurodevelopmental lens: Clinical applications of the neurosequential mode of therapeutics. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 14(4), 240-255. doi: 10.1080/15325020903004350 (PsychINFO: 2009-10040-002).

Mossler, R. A., & Ziegler, M. (2016). Understanding development: A lifespan perspective. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.

Reed, L. C. (1990). Effects of physical abuse on personality development of children (Order No. 9015276). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (303827318). Retrieved from 



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