Over the past few decades a large body of work from developmental neurobiology has shown that mammalian brain development is the product of dynamic and adaptive processes operating within highly constrained, but continually changing, biological and environmental contexts. The recent study of children with prenatal focal brain injury supports this dynamic view of development for humans. Children's injuries often affect substantial portions of one cerebral hemisphere, resulting in damage that would compromise cognitive ability in adults. However, longitudinal behavioral studies of this population have revealed only mild deficits. It is suggested here that children's capacity for adaptation reflects normal developmental processes operating against a backdrop of serious neural perturbation. Data from three behavioral domains--linguistics, spatial cognition and affective development--illustrate this complex profile of change.