Trauma, Development, and Co-Morbidity: Clinical Presentations and Diagnostic Challenges


Early trauma—especially chronic—affects children’s development. Maltreatment, invasive medical treatments, domestic violence, accidents, disasters, grief, loss, war, terror, and many developmental issues: all place children at a high risk for attachment issues, frustration, overwhelm, and distress. Children have limited ability to verbalize distress. Therefore they often communicate it in behavior (and misbehavior), in how they relate to others, how they react, respond, remember, and learn. Traumatized children often present with difficulties in attending and learning, as well as with behavioral and social issues. They are more likely to require Special Education, repeat grades, drop out of school, get in trouble, and be diagnosed with mental-illness. What further complicates the picture is that children who have some form of childhood disability (communication disorders, physical limitations, developmental delays, sensory sensitivities, etc.) can have similar clinical presentations and that as a group these children are at very high risk for maltreatment, behavior issues, and posttraumatic stress.

Trauma can have profound impact on children’s development and clinical presentation. When trauma is not directly assessed, children can accumulate hosts of diagnoses: ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, Autism, Auditory-Processing-Disorder, Conduct Disorder, Childhood Psychosis, and more. Misdiagnosis and missed diagnoses can lead to ineffective intervention, increased frustration, and added need for dissociation. Awareness to the fact duress affects children has improved in recent years, but many professionals remain uncertain about how to differentiate symptoms and behaviors from underlying causes, about the particular ways children communicate distress, and how to address these needs.

This presentation will detail some of the ways trauma affects development, and how traumatic aftermath manifests in the behaviors, abilities, and communication of children. The challenges of differential diagnosis, co-morbidity, and primary versus secondary issues will be discussed, and possible ‘rules of thumb’ guidelines will be offered. Case study vignettes and quotes will be used to elucidate the relationship and complexity of trauma, development, behavior, communication, and differential diagnosis.

Target Audience


Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this session participants will be able to:

  • List three ways chronic stress affects development
  • Identify two diagnostic challenges in assessing traumatized children
  • Discuss common co-morbidities in traumatized children
Course summary
Available credit: 
  • 1.50 ISSTD Certificate Program
    This program is eligible for 1.50 credits in the ISSTD Certificate Program.
Course opens: 
Course expires: 
ISSTD Member cost:


Presenter: Na'ama Yehuda, MSC, SLP
Presenter Bio: Na’ama Yehuda, MSC, SLP, is a speech-language pathologist and audiologist with almost 30 years’ clinical experience. A clinician in private practice, she consulted for the New York City Department of Education; provides international professional development and consultations on communication, language, trauma, and development; and is the author of several publications on the topic. She had been elected to serve on the boards of directors of the Israeli Speech Hearing Language Association (ISHLA) and the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD), chaired and volunteers on taskforces and committees, and currently co-chairs the Child and Adolescent Committee of ISSTD and the ISSTDNYC component group. Her book, Communicating Trauma: Clinical presentations and interventions with traumatized children received the ISSTD's Written Media Award for 2016. She is an ISSTD Fellow, as well as a recipient of the ISSTD President's Award (2014) and the ISSTD Distinguished Achievement Award (2011). She also writes and publishes fiction.

Available Credit

  • 1.50 ISSTD Certificate Program
    This program is eligible for 1.50 credits in the ISSTD Certificate Program.


ISSTD Member cost:
Please login or register to take this course.

"Your Price" above reflects your price based on your membership status. In the checkout process you will be asked to specify your career level and may be eligible for further discounts based on your selection. 

  • ISSTD defines a student as those enrolled in a program of study leading to a degree or certification in the mental health field and who have an interest in trauma and dissociation. 
  • ISSTD defines an emerging professional as mental health professionals who have completed an advanced degree and are in the first three years of their career (or first three years after graduation for researchers).
  • If you do not fall into one of the above categories please register as Professional/Retired. 

These prices are for Tier I countries. For a list of countries by Tier click here. If you are located in a country that falls into Tier II-VI please contact ISSTD at to receive the appropriate discount code.