Risk factors that may contribute to a developmental delay

in a young person include:

• Child abuse/trauma, particularly before age 3;

• Parental substance abuse, or mental illness

• Generational poverty

• Home insecurity/ transiency

• Low educational attainment of parents

• Family violence

• Involvement with Child Protection or the welfare system

Developmental delays can be exacerbated in a young person’s life

if they fall behind their peers at school, or have difficulty making

social connections, or if they have limited recreational


Here’s a little technical bit. There are parts of the brain that will

actually have ‘blunted’ activity when faced with ongoing trauma,

anxiety and stress. For example, in a child this means the

cerebellum, which is responsible for mental health, language,

thinking, and emotional regulation, will not grow and develop like

that of a young person coming from a stable and loving home


We know that every child grows at his or her own pace but achieve

developmental milestones within a similar general timeline.

We also know that the majority of brain development occurs during

a child’s early years, and also continues through adolescence and

young adult hood – full brain development and maturation occurs

by about 25.

So there is time for intervention, however the earlier a young

person receives the support he or she needs, the better off they

will be.

Many researchers agree that children and young people need

positive relationships, rich learning opportunities and safe

environments to support heathy brain development. One of the

most important protective factors in a child’s development is the

presence and availability of adults who can offer help and care;

having a secure relationship with at least one significant person if

their life.

Considering the elements of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, and the

impact of trauma on a young person’s brain development, we can

recognise that the brains develops in response to experiences with

family and the wider community, and the quality of those

experiences affects a child’s future learning, behaviour, and health.

Our objective is to connect young people with screened and

trained adult mentors for a 12 month minimum supported

friendship that will provide a vulnerable young person with a

positive influence.

“Shifting the balance from vulnerability to resilience may happen

as a result of one person or one opportunity…individuals who have

succeeded in spite of adverse environmental conditions… have

often done so because of the presence of support in the form of

one family member, one teacher, one school, one community

person that encouraged their success and welcomed their


(Fostering Resiliency in Kids: Protective Factors in the Family,

School and Community, 1991).

So, as mentors you play the role of that positive and

stable relationship in a vulnerable young person’s life.

Never underestimate the value of developing a sense of safety,

building a young person’s self-esteem, enabling pro-social

activities, and engaging them in new experiences.


Similar magazines