Acquired head / brain injury
Acquired head / brain injury is the name given to an injury to the head or brain that occurs after the child is born. The injury can be superficial and have no long term effects however it can be a more serious injury that impacts upon the brain and its development.
An acquired head / brain injury can have serious implications on a child’s development. Difficulties and delays can arise in various areas of development and can impact many of their skills set. Depending on the type and location of the acquired head / brain injury, areas of a child’s speech, language and communication skills can be impacted upon.
Our speech and language therapists can help decrease the level of difficulty or delay experienced by the child by assessing their abilities and providing them with individualised therapy programmes and advice.
What exactly is acquired head / brain injury?
Acquired head / brain injury refers to any injury to the brain a child experiences after birth. Not all head injuries result in brain injury. Acquired brain injury can be divided into two types:
- Traumatic brain injury - damage to brain caused by an external force, such as roadside collisions or falls.
- Non-traumatic brain injury - damage to the brain caused by an internal incident in the brain, such as oxygen deprivation, meningitis or brain tumour.
A child’s brain continues to grow and develop until they become adults, it is thought the brain is continuously developing until a person is in their 20’s. Any injury or damage to the brain at a very young age can have profound effects on a child’s development. Injury to the head or brain can hinder and impact a child’s development of certain skills.
Depending on the severity, type and location of the injury to the brain an acquired brain injury can affect the following areas of a child’s development:
- Cognitive development.
- Motor development.
- Sensory development.
- Speech, language and communication development.
- Social, behavioural and emotional development.
What causes acquired head / brain injury?
Acquired brain injury can be the result of many different types of trauma to the brain some which can be seen and felt, others that aren’t visible and are diagnosed after symptoms appear.
Some causes of acquired brain injury include:
- Roadside collisions
- Sports accidents
- Stroke (cerebrovascular accidents)
- Prolonged fits
- Cardiac complications
- Brain haemorrhage
In the United Kingdom every 90 seconds a person is admitted to hospital with some form of head / brain injury. Every year there is an estimated 300,000 children under the age of 16 admitted to hospital for a head injury. Research suggests that 1 million people are living in the United Kingdom with long-term effects of acquired brain injury.
Symptoms associated with acquired head / brain injury
The symptoms and signs of an acquired brain injury can vary between children. The symptoms that appear depend on the location, type and severity of injury. There can be immediate symptoms that happen immediately upon injury, or long term symptoms that don’t manifest until many weeks, months or years after the injury. This is because a child’s brain continues to develop and some skills that a child develops do not come into use until they are much older.
Immediate symptoms include:
- Inability to stay awake or unconsciousness
- Fitting or seizures
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty with speech or slurred speech
- Vomiting or nausea
- Confusion or disorientation
- Memory difficulties
- Fluid such as blood coming from nose or ears
Long term symptoms include:
- Difficulties with attention
- Learning difficulties
- Memory problems
- Difficulties with organising and planning
- Difficulty processing information
- Gross motor difficulties
- Fine motor difficulties
- Weakness in limbs
- Difficulties with balance and coordination
- Swallowing difficulties
Speech, language and communication development
- Receptive aphasia - Difficulty understanding spoken or written language
- Expressive aphasia - Difficulty with verbal or written expression
- Speech sound difficulties
- Developmental verbal dyspraxia
- Social communication difficulties
Social, behavioural and emotional development
- Change in behaviour- becoming more impulsive
- Behaving inappropriately for the situation or environment
- Emotional difficulties- such as anxiety
- Frustration, aggression and reduced control of anger
- Sleep disturbance
How does acquired head / brain injury impact upon function?
Acquired brain injury impacts each individual child’s life differently. It is not just the type of injury, the severity of injury, or its effect on the child’s development, which impacts on a child’s daily activities. Aspects such as social, cultural, economic background, family support, personality, awareness of difficulties and acceptance impact function after brain injury. An acquired brain injury does not just affect the child but the child’s family and friends too. Personality changes and acceptance of the long term effects of the brain injury can be distressing and upsetting for both the child and his friends and family. Some ways an acquired brain injury impacts a child’s function includes:
- Personality change.
- Behavioural difficulties.
- Difficulty accessing the educational curriculum.
- Difficulty understanding others.
- Difficulty expressing thoughts and feelings.
- Difficulty with social communication - such as taking part in conversation.
- Difficulty making and maintaining friendships.
- Social isolation.
Speech and language therapy can help reduce the impact of an acquired brain injury on a child’s life by increasing their speech language and communication skills. Our speech and language therapists can create a unique therapy programme to restore, maintain and increase your child’s skills.
Speech and language therapy assessments suitable for acquired head / brain injury
Our speech and language therapists can assess your child to fully understand the nature of their speech, language and communication skills. Depending on the symptoms and their severity, our speech and language therapist will use a variety of formal and informal assessments to determine your child’s ability.
Assessments used by our speech and language therapist include:
Speech and language therapy treatment available for acquired head / brain injury
Speech and language therapy can be extremely beneficial to a child with acquired brain injury, it can help to reduce frustration and isolation by increasing their communication skills and creating independence. A speech and language therapist can provide your child with a therapy programme that is individual to their skills set, their needs and goals. Our speech and language therapists can tailor the therapy to include their motivators, your priorities and the school's concerns.
A child with an acquired brain injury may have difficulties with finding the correct words when trying to express themselves verbally. This may reduce their participation in conversations or activities that requires speech. Our speech and language therapists can provide therapy and strategies to reduce their difficulties and increase their participation in daily activities.
Therapy provided by our speech and language therapists includes:
- Receptive language therapy
- Expressive language therapy
- Augmentative and Alternative Communication
- Speech therapy
- Oro-motor exercises
- Stammering therapy
- Social communication therapy
An acquired brain injury can have serious implications on a child’s development and quality of life. Our speech and language therapists can provide therapy to increase communication skills, which will help to reduce difficulties the child is facing. Communication is central to a child’s development, both cognitively and emotionally it can help to alleviate frustration and increase independence.