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Acquired head / brain injury

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.

How common is Acquired head/ brain injury?

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.

What causes 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.

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:

  • Falls
  • Roadside collisions
  • Sports accidents
  • Meningitis
  • Encephalitis
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular accidents)
  • Prolonged fits
  • Seizures
  • Cardiac complications
  • Brain haemorrhage
  • Aneurysm
  • Surgery

Medico-legal reports

We provide a range of reports upon request, including medico-legal reports for those that require this service.


What are the signs of 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
  • Dizziness
  • 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:

Cognitive development

  • Difficulties with attention
  • Learning difficulties
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulties with organising and planning
  • Difficulty processing information

Motor development

  • Gross motor difficulties
  • Fine motor difficulties
  • Weakness in limbs
  • Difficulties with balance and coordination
  • Swallowing difficulties

Sensory development

  • Hypersensitive
  • Hyposensitive

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
  • Dysarthria
  • Dysfluency
  • Social communication difficulties

Social, behavioural and emotional development

  • Change in behaviour- becoming more impulsive
  • Hyperactivity
  • Behaving inappropriately for the situation or environment
  • Emotional difficulties- such as anxiety
  • Frustration, aggression and reduced control of anger
  • Sleep disturbance

How to support Acquired head/ brain injury?

Our speech and language therapists will work alongside you to create a therapy plan based around your child's individual support needs. Our therapists can carry out observation, assessment and therapy sessions at home, in school and clinic.

Next steps

To book an appointment or to speak to one of our qualified speech and language therapists email us on office@sltforkids.co.uk or call 0330 088 2298.

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