How To Recognize Mixed Maturity And Developmental Trauma

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email
There are so many up and down emotions swirling around in our children, and we are often so exhausted, that it's easy to forget about developmental delays. How do you recognize this in your children? This may help... 

With the journey I’ve been on with my kids over the last 13 years, I’ve become a firm believer in getting our kids evaluated by professionals. Not just any professional. But professionals who specialize in adoption. Admittedly, they are hard to find. Which is why we travel hours, and sometimes to the next state over, and pay a lot of money because insurance doesn’t usually cover the best. 

We have 4 kids we adopted internationally. We found a neuro psychologist specializing in international adoption that does full evaluations. The report he gave us was worth every penny. And there were a LOT of pennies handed over. Twice.

I learned a few terms from these evaluations that I think are really important to share. We as adoptive parents are given a list of letters that go along with our kids regarding their diagnoses. But I’ve come to believe that many of them are just not quite right. And the actual diagnoses can be summed up with many of our kids with this term:

Developmental Trauma Disorder

It’s a real diagnosis that SOME trauma professionals are aware of. The problem is that DTD (Developmental Trauma Disorder) is not in the latest DSM. So instead of diagnosing our children with DTD, the psychologist had to diagnose them with the closest in the DSM-5. Both of them were given the diagnoses of PTSD and separation anxiety.

Along with the DTD, there’s another term I learned which has been extremely eye opening. Our kids have “mixed maturity.” I took this directly from one of our reports:

Developmental trauma disorder adversely affects maturity by inhibiting the integration of cognitive, emotional, and sensory functions into a cohesive whole. In victims of developmental trauma disorder—and these are the majority of post-institutionalized children—we observe what is called “mixed maturity”: a child of a certain chronological age may behave like someone much younger and in other situations like someone much older. Still another typical feature of the emotional make-up of the post-institutionalized child with developmental trauma disorder is “hyperarousal.”

Our kids are EXTREMELY aware of their surroundings and over react in many situations. Both aggressively and emotionally. Depending on the circumstances, they can act very immature for their age. And yet in others, they act like a 30 year old. Because they have experiences in their short lives not typical of a child.

Children should not have to know what death is. Children should not have to know what rejection is. And I’m talking of the most hurtful kind from those that are supposed to love them. No child or adult should know what physical or sexual abuse and pain are. Children shouldn’t have to fight to survive. Children shouldn’t have to know what chronic hunger is. Children should be understood and yet we as parents and care-givers just don’t get them sometimes so we unintentionally add more pain to their already fragile minds and hearts. 

My 8 year old daughter was in church being taught about the importance of not lying. We all know this is a common problem with our kids who have survival instincts like that 30 year old I was talking about. When asked by the teacher what they were going to choose the next time, these words came out quite eloquently from my daughter, “I think I’ll take my chances.”

I said eloquently. There was no smirk. There was no funny tune to her voice indicating she was joking to lighten the mood. She meant it. It was her attempt at honesty. 

And just Friday night, another illustration unfolded in our home. We had friends over so we let all the kids go into the other room and watch a movie, which we rarely do. They almost ALWAYS have some kind of “orphan-like” story in them. Hollywood loves this. But the thing is, our kids actually lived these “stories.” I know some kids like watching their life unfold on TV because they can relate. Others, not so much. And my daughter is one of the not-so-much. Unfortunately, we didn’t read the reviews before we picked one. It seemed to be a harmless show about a dog hotel. 

I went in about half way through the movie to check on them. The kids were lined up with my 2 youngest on the end, noses practically touching the computer screen. My son’s arm was wrapped around my daughter’s shoulder with his Olaf blanket. I couldn’t figure out the sound I was hearing at first so I stopped. She was sobbing. I was confused because she wasn’t moving. She was frozen in time staring at the screen. If she was physically hurt, you can believe there would be screaming and immediate running to interrupt our adult conversations in the other room. But not with this kind of pain. 

I leaned in and asked her what was wrong and she exclaimed, “The brother and sister were split up! They are a family, but they were split up. They’re a family and they’re not supposed to be split up!”

No child should have to know this kind of pain. But she does.

Mixed maturity. Developmental Trauma Disorder. They are real. We must know these terms as their parents. We must recognize them instead of seeing them as bad behaviors. We must. 

I just reached back out to this same psychologist because we have embarked on this new phase of adolescents with one. I was asking a heartfelt mom question that was full of fear for the future. He didn’t give me the comfort I was seeking. Instead he said this, “You don’t have a choice but to do everything you can to help him now.”

And I will. When we have the correct diagnosis for our kids, it helps us parent better. And helps us fight better. And ultimately helps us love better. And that is a force that no diagnosis can be reckoned with.

Got a question over today’s post? Have you considered getting a diagnosis but not known where to begin? Share your comments in the comment section below this post

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email
Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.