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What is an acquired brain injury?

Acquired Brain Injury

TYPE 1
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

  • Fall
  • Road Traffic Accident
  • Sporting Head Injury

TYPE 2
Non Traumatic Brain Injury (NTBI)

  • Stroke
  • Brain Tumour
  • Encephalitis
  • Meningitis
  • Drowning

An acquired brain injury is any damage to the brain that occurs after birth.

Road traffic accidents are the most common cause of ABI in older children and adolescents, whilst falls, being dropped or non-accidental injuries are more common in younger children and infants. (Ref: West, J; Cerebra; 2010)

“The NHS’s Draft Service Specification for Paediatric Neuro-rehabilitation, published in December 2012, estimated that around 40,000 children in the UK suffer a brain injury each Year”  This is only an estimated figure and the incidence of acquired brain injury may in fact be much higher.

Of these, approximately:

  • 2,000 will have sustained severe traumatic brain injury
  • 3,000 moderate traumatic brain injury and
  • 30,000 mild traumatic brain injury

However the severity of the brain injury, does not always reflect the level of impairment.   In other words a person with a mild head injury may have been more significant impairments than a person with a severe head injury.  Each case in unique to the individual.

service wheel3MATRIX Neurological has therefore been formed to enable children and young people who have sustained an acquired brain injury, before the age of 19, to have immediate access upon discharge to high quality community-based services and support tailored specifically to their individual needs. We know our services are currently not available nationally.  People supported by us will continue to have access to services from MATRIX Neurological until they are 25.

ABI is often referred to as a ‘hidden disability’, as survivors may have no physical evidence of their injury. Many of the impairments are not visible to others and it is only over time that the longer term effects may become apparent. The negative consequences of ABI can severely and permanently change a child’s life, as well as have a profound impact on the child’s family as a whole.

Impact on the child:

ABI can cause a range of long term disabilities such as communication and cognitive deficits, sleep disturbance, physical impairments such as post-traumatic epilepsy, depression and high rates of behaviour problems. The more severe the ABI, the greater the impairments of neuro-behavioural functions.

It is usually the cognitive, behavioural and personaity deficits that produce the greatest disruption to their quality of life. However, the long term effects often arise when childrn move into adolescence and adulthood and the true extent of these impairments may only become apparent when the child or adolescent returns to education and fails to meet develomental milestones.

Impact on the family:

It is well recognised that ABI affects both the injured individual and the family as a whole. Families experience panic and fear; shock and denial; anger; guilt and isolation and often no hope for the future. Although they eventually adapt to the increased demands of the brain injured child, it is also common for parents of children with an ABI to experience:

  • high levels of parental burden and stress
  • psychological distress and reduced coping abilities
  • deteriorating family relationships  and family conflict which often contributes to marital breakdown
  • where families also have low social resources or support, the impacts are further exacerbated

(Middleton, JA (2001); Brain Injury in children and adolescents: Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 7, p257-265)

MATRIX Neurological was primarily set up to work with children, young people and their families who are living with the effects of an acquired brain injury who are in need of help or support. We are aware of the difficulties faced by parents and other community professionals in understanding what has happened and the effects of brain injury on the child or young person. Our services also aim to help parents understand a new way of living and we advocate for the on-going rehabilitation needs of the child or young person across a range of agencies.


"Poor parenting styles affects children's behavior; increased their learning disability; and had a negative impact on emotions; anxiety; anger management post brain injury"
Andrea Palacio-Navarro; Spain
"We need to harness the power of brain plasticity for treating children and young people with brain injury. Stressful experiences alter brain development of a child, especially at the key ages of 0-3 and at ages 10-16"
Professor Bryan Kolb; Canada
"Brain development is complex and prolonged. Brain plasticity is influenced by a range of factors. Plasticity provides a base for neuro-rehab therapies and treatment"
Professor Bryan Kolb; Canada
"Our 10 year study proves that family-led home-based neuro-rehab interventions deliver the best outcomes for children and young people"
Lucia Braga; Brazil
"When different organisations assess different aspects of a child's neuro-rehabilitation needs, everyone looks at things from a different perspective and highlight needs and conflicting priorities"
Cathy Jonson; Rehab without Walls; United Kingdom.
"Often families don't have the financial capability to access services. We need to rethink how we delivery neuro-rehab services to children and young people"
Vicki Anderson; Australia
"When someone has a brain injury, early access to local, specialist rehabilitation is crucial to ensure the maximum recovery and make significant savings to the state in health costs"
Headway; United Kingdom
"Rehabilitation interventions can lead to positive outcomes for children and their families if delivered in the familiar home environment and applied to everyday situations"
Cerebra; United Kingdom
"We would like to see earlier identification and support for children with brain injuries to help them succeed in school."
Dalton Leong; Chief Executive of the Children's Trust
"NHS clinicians struggle with what intervention to priorities in pediatric neuro-rehabilitation due to limited clinical time and the complexity of needs. Children, clinicians, parents and schools all have different neuro-rehabilitation priorities"
Recolo; United Kingdom

OUR MISSION: To work to remove (health) inequalities for children & young people affected by acquired brain injury; and provide effective support to their families that makes a real difference.

Council for Disabled Children Lottery Funded