It is estimated that about 40,000 children in the UK suffer some kind of brain injury each year.
Acquired brain injury (ABI) falls into two catagories:
- Traumatic brain injury – resulting from an impact to the head, i.e. an extrinsic force.
- Non-traumatic or traumatic brain injury – resulting from an illness or aberration within the body such as meningitis, stroke or a lack of oxygen.
Each ABI is unique to the individual, and the severity will vary depending on the location and extent within the brain. Children may appear to make a full physical recovery but the deeper changes may take longer to become apparent.
Because the brain is still developing, the child may not be able to pick up the skills they otherwise would have; however, they may be able to re-learn some of the skills they have lost and acquire new skills through rehabilitation and specialised support.
Symptoms and common effects of ABI are:
- Weakness of limbs, difficulties getting around.
- Tiredness, struggling with concentration – often referred to as ‘fatigue’ by professionals.
- Changes in behaviour – irritability, behaving impulsively or inappropriately.
- Difficulties learning new things (learning difficulties).
- Problems with memory.
- Difficulty processing information.
- Emotional difficulties such as anxiety or depression.
- Difficulties understanding and using language, difficulties keeping up with conversations.
- Difficulties organising and planning,
- Difficulties carrying out everyday tasks.
- Difficulty with empathy - putting themselves ‘in someone else’s shoes’, and awareness about their own situation.
Support with processing information
- Complex sentences, abstract words and ideas can be challenging. Idioms, for example ‘rings a bell’ can cause confusion. Start by keeping things simple.
- Word finding is a common problem, give time and help to find alternatives if necessary.
- Give processing time, wait for responses to questions.
- Help scaffold thoughts by repeating back what has just been said.
- Turn taking and following visual clues in conversations can be difficult. Model and support students with group activities.
Support with organisation
- Write down homework tasks and sets of instructions.
- Short focused tasks and breaks in between to rest works best.
- Written, visual, or spoken reminders will help a student think and plan.