By Jennifer Silber-Carr, Ph.D., BCBA-D
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is the leading cause of death and disability in children and adolescents, with those ages 0-4 and 15-19 most at risk.
TBI is an injury to the brain that happens after birth and is caused by an external force. Although falls and motor vehicle accidents are responsible for more than half of all TBIs, they are not the only causes of brain injury. Other causes of TBI include sports injuries, physical abuse, and assault.
Many brain injuries are Acquired Brain Injuries, or ABIs. This term refers to any injury to the brain that is sustained after birth. ABIs can result from:
The May Center School for Brain Injury and Neurobehavioral Disorders
- Infectious diseases (encephalitis, meningitis)
- Metabolic disorders
- Endocrine disorders
- Diminished oxygen (anoxia)
- Brain tumors
- Diseases and conditions affecting blood supply to the brain (stroke)
in Brockton, Mass., serves students with all of these diagnoses as well as seizure disorders and ABI of unknown etiology. The school’s multidisciplinary team of specialists has expertise in educating, rehabilitating, and responding to the unique behavioral needs of students with varied presentations who have sustained a brain injury.
Treatment for TBI and ABI varies based on the injury, age, and physical condition of the individual involved. Ideally, treatment begins as soon as possible after a brain injury occurs following consultations with healthcare providers who can recommend a comprehensive course of action. This plan may include occupational, physical, and speech therapy, and applied behavior analysis (ABA). ABA is a methodology that uses applied scientific interventions to address behavioral needs. ABA therapists employ techniques such as positive reinforcement, teaching in small steps, and repeated practice.
Therapists and other professionals who work with people who have brain injuries focus on stimulating and enhancing their clients’ thinking abilities and teaching them techniques to compensate for deficits and lost skills. Children and adolescents may require special education and modifications to the classroom when they return to school. Individuals of all ages often benefit from counseling following a life-altering brain injury.
Effective treatments help people with brain injury make significant progress in regaining skills and becoming more independent, and offer much cause for hope.
Those of us who care for and about individuals with TBI and ABI are also strong proponents of brain injury prevention. Parents should make sure the home is safe by installing window guards to prevent falls, installing safety gates on stairs, securing area rugs, and putting rubber mats in bathtubs. Children should be supervised at all times and follow safety rules at water parks, swimming pools, and public beaches. And firearms should be unloaded and stored in a locked cabinet/safe, with ammunition stored separately.
We also join with the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) in recommending the following for children and adolescents:
- wearing seat belts at all times
- following recommended guidelines around using car seats and booster seats
- wearing properly fitting helmets when riding bikes, roller skating/roller blading, skateboarding, etc.
- using shock-absorbing materials on playgrounds (and performing regular safety checks) to lessen the impact of falls
For more information, visit these websites:
The Brain Injury Association of America http://www.biausa.org/index.htm
The Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts http://www.biama.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/headsup/basics/index.html
National Institutes of Health http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/tbi/tbi.htm
Jennifer Silber-Carr, Ph.D., BCBA-D, is the Clinical Director of the May Center School for Brain Injury and Neurobehavioral Disorders in Brockton, Mass. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
May Institute is a national nonprofit organization that provides educational, rehabilitative, and behavioral health services to individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities, brain injury, and behavioral health needs. May Institute operates four schools for children and adolescents with ASD and other developmental disabilities, and a school for children and adolescents with brain injury in Brockton, Mass. For more information, call 800-778-7601, or visit www.mayinstitute.org.