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Acquired brain injury (ABI) - medical information

Causes of acquired brain injury (ABI)
Acquired brain injury, or ABI, specifically refers to a brain injury acquired after birth – i.e. the child wasn't born with their injury. A recent draft NHS document provided the most comprehensive figures from an official source for some time, estimating that around 40,000 children in the UK suffer some kind of brain injury each year.

ABI falls into 2 catagories:

  1.  Traumatic brain injury – resulting from an impact to the head, i.e. an extrinsic force
  2.  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 come 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

  • Weakness of limbs, difficulties getting around.
  • Tiredness, struggling with concentration – often referred to as ‘fatigue’ by professionals.
  • Changes in behavior – 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.