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#What25MeansToMe – Laverne Antrobus

May 5th, 2021

“Research has shown that most people’s brains take about 25 years to develop” 

Redthread talks brain development, trauma and adulthood with Laverne Antrobus part of our #What25MeansToMe blog series

Laverne is a consultant child and educational psychologist with over 25 years’ experience. Having trained at the Tavistock Clinic, Laverne works with children who present with complex social, emotional, behavioural and psychiatric difficulties in one of the Tavistock’s specialist multi-disciplinary teams supporting children who are struggling with conditions such as autism, ADHD and depression. Read more about her work here.

Someone is legally an adult at 18 years old, why should organisations like Redthread support young people up to the age of 25?

Although 18 is seen as the legal age when a child becomes an adult given everything we now know about development and in particular brain development this thinking has been steadily challenged.  Therapeutic services see adolescence as continuing up to the age of 25 and similarly Education and Health Care Plans (EHCPs) offer support to young people until they are 25 in educational settings.  It is vital that services like Redthread offer support to young people whilst they are still developing.  There are many ‘legal’ challenges that young people face so creating safe spaces to support them is invaluable.

Even though teenagers are on their way to adulthood in the body, they still need the protection and support from adults in order to avoid getting involved in situations that they may regret in later life.

What is happening to a young person’s brain and body during the transition from adolescence to adulthood?

Research has shown that most people’s brains take about 25 years to develop with the frontal part of the brain not being fully developed in many until this age – this part of the brain is responsible for rational thinking, problem solving, self-control and thinking ahead.  All of these important activities in terms of thinking and making decisions are at the heart of many of the challenges that adolescents face and thus adults working with young people have to be mindful of these changes and adjust any support being offered accordingly.

How can experiences of, for example, trauma, affect a young person’s development? 

If exposed to trauma involving violence, abuse, accidents or disasters, a young person’s brain system can become hyper-sensitive and risk being in alarm very quickly – this can then lead to a reaction in the body which can put young people into fight or flight mode.  Trauma can lead to PTSD which may increase the risk of other struggles such as anxiety, depression, dependence on drugs and alcohol and sometimes violence.

How can society better support young people going through this transition?

The evidence we have with regard to brain development should change our thinking and the way we approach our work with young people.  Perhaps we should try to remember how we felt when we were 18.  Ask yourself the following questions:

How did you feel when you were presented with the adult world at 18? Were you ready? Do you remember noticing that some of your friends seemed more mature than others?  Might this have been due to the experiences that they had had in their families, in education or in life more generally?

The answers to some of these questions may change the way in which adults and services think about and interact with young people.

What impact has COVID-19 had on young people’s development?

COVID-19 has been a real challenge for everyone and for young people it has interrupted some of the life events that many expected to pass through.  From transitions to secondary school to taking exams, entering college, university or the workplace, all of these experiences have been disrupted. There have also been worries about how safe young people are at home and the impact of poverty.  With this in mind it would be helpful to listen even more carefully to young people’s experience, needs and the solutions they think would be helpful.

Redthread’s youth workers support young people up to age 25 because we know young people still need this type of support. Donate now to ensure we can continue this impactful work.

You can download the full blog here

This blog is part of our ‘What 25 Means to Me’ campaign. To celebrate Redthread’s 25th year, our blog series provides different perspectives on the eclectic experience on ‘growing up’ and how society can better support young people going through this transition. 

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