Not all scars are visible. Childhood trauma affects the brain, impairing both the brain’s function and structure. While these hurts may seem invisible, they are not. The effects of trauma on the brain are noticeable to those who look for the signs and symptoms in children. Our June blog posts explore how trauma affects the brain and how you can be an attentive adult who sees these ‘invisible’ scars.

Trauma and the Prefrontal Cortex

Most of our higher level thinking, also referred to as executive functioning, comes from the brain’s prefrontal cortex. Cognitive and reasoning skills are associated with this part of the brain. That’s why trauma that affects the prefrontal cortex can delay cognitive and language skills, as well as negatively impact learning. Childhood trauma may result in:

  1. Impulsive decision making
    Low executive functioning resulting from trauma can lead to higher impulsivity. For example, children could consider it difficult to understand natural consequences of actions. They may also be challenged by activities like setting long-term goals. 
  2. Learning Problems
    Damage to the prefrontal cortex is sometimes most evident for children struggling in school. Children who experienced trauma can be challenged by activities that require you to think logically, solve problems, and memorize.
  3. Attention Deficit Disorder
    Another effect of trauma on the brain is a shorter attention span. Children may have trouble focusing or show other common symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder. 

Children who have experienced childhood trauma have already suffered. As the adults in their lives, we want to do everything we can to ensure that their childhood trauma does not also negatively impact their future. This is especially true for their future educational and vocational success. Do not hesitate to connect children to resources and services – school counseling services, tutoring, 504 Plans, etc. – that will help them gain skills needed to be successful in learning environments.  

It is also important to reinforce these children’s strengths. They may struggle in one area, but in what other areas so they stand out? Encourage. Uplift. Motivate. Your positive words will help build their confidence and resilience.


June is PTSD Awareness Month. If you or a loved one are struggling with PTSD, you can call 988 to be connected with mental health resources.