An acquired brain injury is any damage to the brain that occurs after birth. They are caused by ‘major trauma’ events.
Major trauma describes isolated or multiple serious injuries, that may result in death or disability.
Common causes include:
(Source: South Tees Hospital’s Trust)
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:
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.
MATRIX 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 personality changes that produce the greatest disruption to their quality of life. However, the long term effects often arise when children 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 developmental 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:
(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.
"Often families don't have the financial capability to access services. We need to rethink how we deliver neuro-rehab services to children and young people"
"Participation in teen sports and normal activities leads to improved quality of life for children and young people post brain injury and helps to maximise outcomes"
"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"
"When different organisations assess different aspects of a child's neuro-rehabilitation needs, everyone looks at things from a different perspective and have conflicting priorities"
"Too often children and young people with ABI are discharged from hospital without specialist brain support that they and their families need to overcome lifelong challenges"
"Positive and coordinated neuro-rehab interventions for children and young people is proven to bring health improvements; improve independence; reduces the need for sheltered living; decreases vulnerability; decreases drop-out rates in schools; decreases youth offending"
"NHS clinicians struggle with what intervention to prioritise in paediatric neuro-rehabilitation due to limited clinical time and the complexity of needs. Children, clinicians, parents and schools all have different neuro-rehabilitation priorities"
"We would like to see earlier identification and support for children with brain injuries to help them succeed in school."
"With support parents cope better so the child has a better recovery"
"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"