Anyone at any age can sustain an injury to the brain. Children can sustain injuries to the brain during birth, as a result of a fall, vehicular accident or from being violently shaken at a young age.
A child with a brain injury can suffer many consequences including changes in behavior, cognitive ability and emotional reactions. Various effects of a brain injury depend on where the injury occurred in the brain, what caused the injury (blow, penetrating object etc.) and the severity of the injury.
A child can sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a result of physical force from outside the brain such as when the child’s head hits the windshield, or someone hits the child in the head with a baseball bat. Traumatic brain injuries to children are often the result of accidents while riding bicycles, sporting injuries, and as a result of a fall. Child abuse is another common cause of brain injury to a child. The physical blow usually causes an altered state of consciousness with resulting disturbances or changes in behavior and the way the child functions emotionally. The difficulties can be temporary or they may be permanent. The child may experience a partial disability or may sustain total inability to function in some capacity as a result of the brain injury. The child may also experience a psychosocial maladjustment.
A child can also sustain an acquired brain injury. This type of brain injury is caused from within the body on the cellular level within the brain itself. Medical conditions that may cause an acquired brain injury include AIDS, airway obstruction, aneurysm, arteriovenous malformation (AVM), blood loss, carbon monoxide poisoning, brain tumor, electrical shock, heart attack, infectious disease, insect-carried diseases, intracranial tumors, meningitis, metabolic disorders, near-drowning, toxic exposure to poisonous chemicals or gases, such as carbon monoxide.
A child with an acquired brain injury may have one or more problem areas such as difficulty with abstract thinking, attention and concentration issues, inability to reason, trouble with speech language communication, memory or cognition.
Emergency room staff look for several signs or symptoms of a brain injury including a wound on the scalp, obvious facial or scalp fracture, swelling and bruising to the face or head, loss of consciousness, nasal discharge and neck stiffness. The signs or symptoms of a brain injury in a child will depend on the cause of the injury. Different portions of the brain will react in different ways when there has been an injury.
If a child has suffered a brain injury to the cerebellum (that is the base of the skull) the child may experience dizziness, tremors, slurred speech, loss of ability to walk or perform fine motor movements as well as the inability to perform rapid movements. In cases of a brain stem injury the child may experience difficulty swallowing liquids or food, have problems maintaining balance while moving and have bouts of nausea or dizziness. The child may have problems getting to sleep or develop a decrease in breathing. If a child has a brain injury above the ears in the temporal lobe region they may have trouble recognizing faces that should be familiar to them, have trouble understanding words, suffer from short-term memory loss, not be able to recognize once familiar objects and may exhibit an unusually aggressive behavior.
A child with a brain injury in the occipital lobes which is at the back of the head lower down; they may have problems with vision, difficulties identifying colors and locating objects or to be able to tell when objects are moving. The child with an injury in this area of the brain may experience difficulties with reading and writing.
A child who suffers from a brain injury to the back and top region of the head may find it difficult to locate words when writing, have problems naming an object, or may have difficulty drawing, or doing math. A child with this kind of brain injury may experience difficulties with eye-hand coordination or from being able to distinguish left from right.
When the child has a brain injury that occurs in the frontal lobe of the forehead there may be paralysis of certain body parts or loss of simple movement or an inability to complete complex tasks such as those that have multiple steps or that require complex movements. They may have difficulty with being able to focus on one single thought or focus on a task that needs completion. It may be difficult to problem solve. They may have changes in personality or in social behavior.
Brain Injury Association of America; Living with Brain Injury http://www.biausa.org/education.htm
Braininjury.com Symptoms of brain injury http://www.braininjury.com/symptoms.html