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Research on the neuroscience of human development has made it clear that emotional nurture is a physiological need. Children and young people whose needs for emotional nurture have not been met within their key attachment relationships are much more vulnerable than their peers to being injured by toxic stress - injuries which can lead to a range of mental health issues.

Health professionals working with vulnerable children and young people, and with vulnerable families, need to be able to recognise the impact of unmet attachment needs and trauma, and to have skills in working effectively to ensure that traumatised children can recover and build resilience.

health visiting and early childhood development

In early childhood, positive emotional nurture feeds the developing brain as food feeds the growing body. The brain will double in size in the first year of life, as the child's experiences produce new connections in the brain. By the end of the third year the brain will have reached 90% of adult size. Health professionals are the people who have most access to families during this formative period of brain development. KCA's Five to Thrive suite of training, resources and publications has provided a vital bridge between professional understanding of the research and day-to-day work with parents in vulnerable families. Key knowledge areas include:

mental health and vulnerable populations

Children and young people with unmet attachment needs and toxic stress disorders may present with a wide range of mental health issues. The behavioural indicators of trauma overlap with the behavioural indicators of a number of syndromes and medical conditions. It is very important that health professionals have the knowledge and skill to recognise the impact of unmet needs and trauma, and to be alert to the possibility that symptoms may have a traumatic origin - and may be resolved if the child can recover from the trauma. Children with organic brain damage as a result of foetal exposure to alcohol may also meet the criteria for numerous other conditions - it is not uncommon for such children to attract multiple diagnoses, without getting the help they need to live with the lifelong impairments of FASD.

Key knowledge areas include:

life-long wellbeing and public health

Attachment relationships are the basis for optimal brain function throughout life. Understanding the neuroscience of human development means that any setting providing services for human beings needs to be attachment aware. Health professionals have been finding that this new insight into the power of caring connections between humans can transform practice in services for people at all stages of life. Key knowledge areas include:

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