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A Brief Review of Children & Traumatic Brain Injury

 November 8, 2017

By  Deborah L Weiner Katz, OTR/L, CCM, CLCP

One topic we return to time and time again this space is traumatic brain injury (TBI), as can be seen here and here. In fact, one of our very first posts was about a client who had been let go from her job after suffering a brain injury. The information we presented at her wrongful termination trial helped her win a substantial settlement. We are often called as expert witnesses in cases involving TBI. Our passion as advocates is already apparent but when it comes to the subject of children, we become involved as parents as well. So, we return to the subject once again with vital facts about kids and brain injuries.

According to the Brain Injury Association of America, TBI is the leading cause of disability and death in children and adolescents in the United States.  It is estimated that 1300 children suffer severe or fatal brain trauma from child abuse every year. For children four years of age or younger, the chief cause of brain injury is falls. Extend that age to 19 and the list of causes expands to motor vehicle crashes, sports injuries, physical abuse and other causes. Over half a million-young people released from emergency rooms on a yearly basis were admitted because of TBI. Our primary concern is that symptoms do not always show themselves immediately. This is information that needs to be kept in mind regardless of how long it has been since the injury occurred.

Physical Impairments

The brain is an organ. So, let’s begin with physical ramifications to look out for. In terms of a child’s senses, speech, vision and hearing can all be affected. He or she may suffer from fatigue and headaches. Some develop issues regarding balance or motor coordination. The most severe signs of trouble are seizure disorders and paralysis.

Cognitive Impairments

Thought, or cognition, is the higher function we associate with the brain. It can be drastically altered by injury to the brain. Short term memory loss and difficulty concentrating may become apparent. Diminished quality of thought, in terms of attention span and processing speed, has been reported. Learned skills such as writing and reading might experience regression. Even judgment and perception have been reported as being altered.

Emotional Impairments

Sadly, with mental health awareness what it is, behavioral and emotional difficulties can be the most elusive in terms of solutions. Anxiety and depression can already be attributed to any number of triggers in one’s life. A recent brain injury can be added to the list. Overall mood swings are not uncommon. Those closest to the child are more important than ever in this category. Parents can tell if their child’s self-esteem or motivation are not what they used to be. This should be reported to treating physicians, therapists, and a case manager along with all other changes.

For children ages 14 and younger, traumatic brain injury results in 2,685 deaths per year.  That’s 37,000 hospitalizations and 435,000 emergency room visits. Statistics like these can be overwhelming. They might even leave you numb, unable to connect with the numbers. Being informed and vigilant, however, are as essential to good parenting as they’ve ever been. We know this because traumatic brain injury is not only part of the work we do, but a fear we must face as parents ourselves. We would be happy to discuss the matter further. Please call us or schedule a free consultation.

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