What Impact Can Age Have on a Child's Injury?

Dr. Jane Gillet explains what can sometimes happen as a child that sustained a TBI at a young age enters into higher school grades. 

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I think if it's within a year or two of the accident, most schools and families might think it's related to the accident. So it's not as much of a problem. Where it's more of a problem is when you're injured when you're--say--around 3--2, 3, 4. Even this is true with a severe brain injury. The kids recover from their injury. They look and they act very much like a typical 3, 4-year-old because we don't expect 3- and 4-year-olds to have much in the way of an attention span. We don't expect them to be able to read, and we don't expect them to be able to do these things because they're only 3. So they come back, and they look like a 3-year-old, which is great. But then what happens is when they get into the higher school grades and they're supposed to have developed attention and they're supposed to have learned how to do certain things and they're supposed to have continued their normal development, and they don't and they start to run into problems. Then they can get labeled as having a learning disability because people have forgotten about that brain injury that occurred back when they were 3. But the teaching mechanism, although some of the strategies are the same for a learning-disabled person versus a brain-injured person, they are different in that a learning-disabled child can learn how to do one thing in a strategy and then generalize it to other areas. Most children who have had a brain injury learn how to do X in a situation Y, and then they go to situation Z and they're supposed to do X, and it's like an entirely new problem, and they can't generalize. So you have to be prepared to teach things over and over and over again to someone with a brain injury, whereas you're not necessarily having to do that with a learning disability.
Posted on BrainLine June 8, 2010.

Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough and Brian King, BrainLine.org.

About the author: Jane Gillett, MD

Dr. Jane Gillett was a neurologist certified by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in both pediatric and adult neurology. She created and developed the Pediatric Acquired Brain Injury Community Outreach Program, Children’s Hospital of Western Ontario. She died in 2011.

Dr. Jane Gillett