Brockton, Mass., – Over three million children and youth suffer from a pediatric acquired brain injury each year, making it the leading cause of death and disability for children and young adults in the U.S. According to the Brain Injury Association of America, more people experience traumatic brain injury each year than breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injuries combined. Every 20 seconds, a person in the U.S. sustains a brain injury.
March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. The approach of spring and summer means the return of outdoor sports, proms, and other recreational activities that could pose risks. It is an important to time to focus on brain injury awareness and prevention.
About Brain Injury
There are two types of acquired brain injury − traumatic or non-traumatic brain injury, both of which occur after birth. Many cases of brain injury go undetected and untreated for years prior to diagnosis. Every year, athletes die on the playing field because of an undetected brain injury.
Traumatic brain injury is caused by an external force such as a motor vehicle or sports-related accident, assault, child abuse, or falls. Traumatic brain injury impacts approximately one million children annually, with 165,000 requiring hospitalization. Adolescents, young adults, and the elderly are at the greatest risk for traumatic brain injury. Non-traumatic brain injury can be caused by strokes, brain tumors, pediatric AIDS, meningitis, infection, substance abuse, neurological disease, or other illnesses and diseases.
Common Symptoms of a Brain Injury
Brain injury may affect an individual’s ability to function well at work, school, home, and in other settings, causing difficulties in the following areas:
• Cognitive: memory loss, organizational difficulties, speech and/or communication problems, difficulty in reasoning and problem-solving
• Behavioral: impulsiveness, aggression, and decline in social skills
• Physical: impairment or changes in vision, hearing, coordination, balance, or muscle tone
Brain Injury Prevention
There are a number of ways that adults can protect children from brain injury. Children should receive instruction on street safety at an early age (“stop, look, and listen before you cross the street”). They should wear properly fitted helmets during sporting and recreational activities, including riding bicycles, tricycles, scooters, and skateboards; rollerblading, skiing, and snowboarding; playing football, baseball, hockey, soccer, and other impact sports. Riders should use trails and other designated areas for biking, and avoid busy streets. Car seats and seat belts are essential. Children under 12 years of age and/or those who weigh less than 100 pounds should ride in the back seat of a motor vehicle.
Treatment and Recovery
Individuals who receive prompt diagnosis and treatment for a brain injury often make great progress in regaining skills following a trauma or illness. Treatment for children and adolescents should include rehabilitation and special education services through a multidisciplinary team of professionals, such as licensed psychologists, physical and occupational specialists, and teachers trained specifically in the treatment of brain injury. Residential services can also be useful for those who need additional care.
Programs such as May Institute’s May Center for Education and Neurorehabilitation utilize applied behavior analysis (ABA) to treat individuals with brain injury. ABA is a methodology, or framework, that applies scientific interventions to address behavioral needs and skill development. ABA facilitates the development of language, social interactions, and independent living by applying basic behavioral practices. Hundreds of scientific studies have shown that ABA is the most effective method to teach children and adolescents with neurological problems.
About May Institute and the May Center for Education and Neurorehabilitation
The May Center for Education and Neurorehabilitation, based in Brockton, Mass., is one of only a few pediatric programs in the U.S. that focuses on both education and rehabilitation of children and adolescents (ages 5-22) with brain injury or neurological disorders. The program is led by nationally recognized experts in the research and treatment of brain injury and neurological disorders in children, adolescents, and adults. The full-day, year-round program is based on best practice standards for teaching students with academic, social, physical, and behavioral difficulties resulting from a brain injury.
The Center is part of May Institute, a national nonprofit organization that provides educational, rehabilitative, and behavioral healthcare services to individuals with brain injury, autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities, mental illness, and behavioral healthcare needs.
May Institute experts are available for comment. For more information, call 800-778-7601 or visit www.mayinstitute.org.