How do childhood experiences affect brain development?
Our brains develop from before birth and into adulthood (Siegel and Bryson, 2012). But there are key ‘sensitive periods’ during early childhood and adolescence where children and young people’s brains are more malleable, making them more susceptible to positive or negative experiences (Shonkoff et al, 2008).
What happens during a child or young person’s life in these periods can have a significant effect on a child’s brain development.
Positive experiences throughout childhood help to build healthy brains. Conversely, childhood trauma and abuse can harm a child’s brain development. However, positive experiences, caring relationships and support services can reduce the harmful effects of negative experiences and help a child’s brain continue to develop in a healthy manner (Shonkoff et al, 2015).
Although it’s beneficial to provide children with positive experiences as early as possible, our brains always have the potential to change and grow. It’s never too late to give a child or young person positive brain building experiences.
How we use metaphors to explain brain development
We want to create a shared and simple language around child brain development that can be used by all professionals, parents, carers and children.
Sharing the Science is a trauma-informed approach to child brain development that uses six key metaphors, developed by the Harvard Center on the Developing Child, the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative and the FrameWorks Institute.
The metaphors can be used to improve understanding of child development, foster healthy brain growth and help children who have suffered adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) get back on track.
This page provides detailed information about each of the six metaphors and tips on how to use them in your work with children and families.