Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is the leading cause of childhood disabilities and deaths compared to other injuries. Children and adolescents have more TBI- related hospital visits than any other age group. Traumatic Brain Injuries are classified as brain damage due to a serious accident. The top three causes of TBI are car accidents, firearms, and falls. No two-brain injuries are alike, meaning that symptoms, recovery, and treatment will vary.
If your child experiences an accident or concussion, immediately bring him or her to the emergency room. Although the hospital stay for TBI may be short for some patients, the effects are long lasting and rehabilitation is a crucial process. Rehabilitation may include speech, physical, and occupational therapy to help regain previously mastered skills. Your child may experience difficulty in cognitive communication (attention, memory, self-awareness), physical movement such as walking, and self-care. The slow process of rehabilitation may discourage children, so it is your role as a parent to encourage your child to focus on the daily progress they make. Help your child regain self-confidence while relearning old skills.
Recent research found that the younger the child at the time of the accident, the more severe effects since the brain is still developing. Depending on the severity of the brain injury, long-term effects may impact cognitive problem solving and socially appropriate behavior. These effects may not be apparent until the child is school-aged and presented with more abstract thinking and problem solving. Children may also have difficulty understanding socially appropriate behavior while communicating with peers.
During your child’s hospital stay, they are receiving constant medical attention and continuous therapy. Returning home may bring about new challenges for your family and child. In order to create a safe environment, open communication is essential. Consider holding family meetings to discuss your child’s needs, as well as openly communicating the situation to siblings and other family members. Routine and predictability is helpful for a smooth transition. Although certain activities may be eliminated, encourage new activities that present less risk for re-injury. Encourage new activities to take place at home or in the supervision of a trusted adult. Communicate constantly with your child about any frustration they may feel based on new restrictions.
Returning to school:
As mentioned before, school may be challenging for children with TBI. Establish frequent communication with school personnel including social workers, guidance counselor and teachers. Usually a meeting is required before attending school to discuss any changes and/or an Individual Educational Plan (IEP). Aside from academic challenges of school, your child may become anxious about social situations. Some children with TBI may experience social isolation due to changes in behavior. Consider educating close friend’s parents on the condition of your child’s injury so they can help their children understand the changes they may notice. Listen to your child’s concerns or frustrations with social situations, and role-play social scenarios your child may be encounter.
Traumatic Brain Injuries can be a devastating and frightening time for families. Know that you are not alone, and there are many community resources available. Community resources are a great support system to help your family adjust to your new way of life. Become active in social support groups to share new experiences and hear stories from other families. Lumiere Children’s Therapy not only provides rehabilitation services of speech, physical and occupational therapy, but we also have a licensed social worker to help your family adjust.
Bonner, C. H., M.S.W. (n.d.). Children with Traumatic Brain Injury: A Parents’ Guide. Retrieved January 04, 2017, from http://www.brainline.org/content/2009/06/children-with-traumatic-brain-injury-a-parents-guide-_pageall.html
Ciccia, A., PhD. (2015, December 01). TBI: The Stealthy School Stressor. Retrieved January 04, 2017, from http://leader.pubs.asha.org/article.aspx?articleid=2474091
DePompei, R. (n.d.). Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury. Retrieved January 04, 2017, from http://www.brainline.org/content/2011/02/pediatric-traumatic-brain-injury_pageall.html
What are the Causes of TBI? (n.d.). Retrieved January 04, 2017, from http://www.traumaticbraininjury.com/understanding-tbi/what-are-the-causes-of-tbi/