By: Madison McClure, DPT
Did you know March is Brain Injury Awareness Month? It’s a great opportunity to learn a bit more about brain injuries and how we can support friends and family experiencing the effects.
On average each year, 62,000 children aged 0-19 sustain a brain injury that requires hospitalization. These traumatic brain injuries are often the result of car crashes, falls, sports injuries, and physical abuse. Brain injury can change the way individuals think, act, move, and feel – but it is not always visible. Just like every child is different, every brain injury is different and symptoms can range from mild or invisible to very severe and outwardly involved. Some common symptoms include changes in cognition and sensory processing, emotional liability, loss of motor skills, changes in movement patterns, and difficulty with expressive and receptive communication. Those who have suffered a brain injury often benefit from a multi-disciplinary approach to therapy to regain as much independence as possible.
There are 10 levels of recovery from brain injury that your child may progress through. Everyone moves through the stages at different rates. There are strategies that may be helpful depending on the individual and the level of functioning. Your team of therapists will guide you with specific recommendations, but below are some things to consider while recovering from a brain injury .
Adjust supervision as necessary. Safety is our number one concern. Your child may need supervision with tasks that they were previously independent with before.
Lean on your support system. You may find yourself totally consumed in the care of your child but it is important for caregivers to take care of themselves as well. Involve family, friends, therapists, Facebook groups, peer networks, etc., when you are ready. It may just take a village.
Focus on the small, daily successes. Presentations can change quickly as your child progresses through different stages of recovery. We encourage caregivers to focus on progress and encouraging the child.
Create opportunities for your child to be successful. This is encouraging for both caregivers and patients and limiting frustrations can make a world of difference.
Model tasks and behavior for your child. It can be beneficial to give directions through demonstration, not just verbally. Modeling intended actions may help communicate to your child what you would like for them to do.
Routines and picture schedules may be helpful, especially when cognition and memory is affected. It can help your child know what to expect.
Be patient and meet your child where they are. This is a stressful and emotionally draining time for everyone involved but everyone has the same goal. Brains take time to heal and all we can do is support the child through the process.
Communicate with your child clearly, using short, repetitive phrases if necessary. This can help get the point across without overwhelming your child.
Consider a Memory Book. Your memory book may include an “About Me” page, pictures of important people in his/her life, and you can record meals and activities done throughout the day to refer back to.
Do you know someone recovering from a brain injury? Visit the Brain Injury Association to learn more about what to expect so you can better interact and care for your loved one.