My 11-year-old son sustained a mild TBI more than two years ago. Since the injury, he has had what seems like an emotional disconnect from friends, family, and faith. I thought by now his brain would recognize the importance of these relationships, but he still seems disconnected from the world. Will this ever go away? Is there anything we can do to help him?
From your question it sounds as if your son’s symptoms have not fully resolved two years post-injury. I would recommend a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation to identify any ongoing neurocognitive issues that may be the underlying cause of the symptoms.
For some people with symptoms from mild TBI that won’t seem to abate, emotional issues such as anxiety, depression, or mood fluctuations may contribute to the continuation of symptoms. And social isolation or a decrease in community participation is not uncommon after brain injury. Sometimes, the decrease in participation can result in neurocognitive and/or emotional issues such as adynamia (poor ability to initiate), poor problem-solving skills, worries, shame, and depression.
A psychologist or psychotherapist with experience in treating individuals with brain injury would be able to work with you and your son to identify what is causing his emotional symptoms, and from there, develop coping skills and compensatory strategies to identify strengths and address weaknesses.
Brain injury symptoms can change over time as the brain continues to develop through adulthood. It is not uncommon to see a different pattern of strengths and weaknesses emerge as task demands and expectations change. Follow-up neuropsychological evaluations are recommended at various developmental levels, such as a shift from elementary school to middle school or middle school to high school, to identify any changes and how best to treat them going forward.
Jacquelyn Borg, PhD is a clinical child psychologist and manager of the Department of Neuropsychology and Neurorehabilitation for Children's Specialized Hospital in New Jersey. She is an affiliate member of the medical staff at the Hospital.