Childhood brain injury can have long-term effects

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Children who have suffered a significant head injury are much more likely to have long-term psychological and social problems, according to a neuropsychologist who will be speaking at the Australian Psychological Society Clinical Neuropsychology Annual Conference in Launceston this weekend.

“There is a folklore that children who have suffered a significant head injury will often grow out of any initial problems but our research has shown that this is not the case,” according to Professor Vicki Anderson MAPS from the Royal Children’s Hospital and Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.

Professor Anderson said that childhood traumatic brain injury puts children at far greater risk of developing long-term problems with interpersonal relationships and participating in social activities, creating a potentially poorer quality of life.

Professor Anderson explains: “If your child had a significant head injury which resulted in hospitalisation even for only one or two nights, it is important to be aware that they may experience subtle, or more serious, problems in the months and years after injury.”

Parents need to be aware that their child is potentially at risk as educational and health professionals may not be aware of their child’s injury as the time from injury increases. Often young children, or those who live in rural areas, do not have access to rehabilitation which is important not just to assist in recovery of physical and medical problems, but also to help the child and family to manage and adjust to any long term consequences of injury.

Professor Anderson says: “I don’t want to paint a bleak picture as many children recover very well from their injuries and there are treatments available to help these children and their families to get back to normal. There are a lot of good resources in the Australian health system, compared to those in the US and other countries, and there are good interventions which parents can use.”

One such intervention has been adapted from the Parenting Research Centre’s Signpost program which creates strategies for parents to help them manage a child’s behaviour.

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The focus though cannot only be on the child; parents must not forget about themselves as their mental health will have a direct impact on the wellbeing of their child.

Professor Anderson explains: “A well functioning family environment will help the child achieve better outcomes, so the parents need to make sure they are mentally healthy and look after themselves. If the parents are stressed this will have a negative impact on the child’s development and recovery.”

Source: Australian Psychological Society

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Date Created: December 2, 2012