Myth 8: All children with traumatic brain injury get better.

One of the greatest myths perpetrated is that children have better recoveries from traumatic brain injury than adults. This myth rests upon the refuted theory known as plasticity, which claims developing brain can better rebound from injury. This theory is untrue. In fact, because a child’s brain is undeveloped, it may take years to realize the impairments that the child faces as a result of a brain injury. In an excellent article on children and head injuries published in the Journal of Recovery, Dr. Ronal Savage, who for 35 years has treated children with traumatic brain injuries, examines the following children related myths and puts them to rest.

Myth: Younger children recover better than older children.
Fact: New research shows that younger children, especially between birth and five years may experience more long-term challenges.
Myth: Severe TBI means permanent disability. Mild TBI means few, if any, problems.
Fact: Measures commonly used to evaluate brain injury severity were developed for adults, no children. Children do not lose consciousness as easily as adults.
Myth: Physical recovery is a sign the child has recovered.
Fact: Motor function is not a direct indicator of cognitive or behavioral recovery.
Myth: Normal intelligence scores after TBI mean the child will have no problems in school.
Fact: Intelligence tests often are unreliable measures of a child’s learning ability after TBI. Most intelligence tests measure prior learning.
Myth: Most injuries happen to older children, especially teen-agers.
Fact: The majority of brain injuries occur to children under 10.

It was once thought that child maturation followed a step-up progression. Research done by Dr. Savage and others now clearly demonstrates the traumatic effect of a child’s brain maturation. Not only does the brain as a whole mature at different times and ages, but a child’s different brain lobes maturate at different periods of time. In examining the long-term effects of traumatic brain injury on children it is important to look as to whether the child has suffered a previous TBI, whether the child has any pre-existing learning disabilities, whether the child has any pre-existing neurological or psychiatric problems and whether there is a history of family problems. All these issues are factors for poor outcome for children who have suffered a traumatic brain injury.

You can read my other posts on the 10 myths of traumatic brain injuries here.