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School Learning Disorders: Acquired Brain Damage

Acquired Brain Damage (ABD) occurs in a brain that was previously healthy.

The most frequent causes of ABD are:

  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Cerebrovascular accident (CVA)
  • Infections of the central nervous system (CNS)
  • Cerebral hypoxia-ischemia of different causes
  • Oncological diseases of the CNS
  • Other neurological disorders

Due to the peculiarities of the brain during childhood, the sequelae of ABD in children have their own characteristics which are very different to those of adults:

  • The effects on the brain tend to be global and diffuse and, although children often recover quickly at a physical and linguistic level, the effects on cognitive functions are much more significant than in adults.
  • ABD can have an influence on the cognitive functions that the child had previously acquired, on the functions that were developing at the acute moment and also on those that should be developed in the future. This means that some sequelae are not observed straight away, but at the age at which a certain brain function is expected to develop.
  • Unlike adults, children have a long learning process ahead, which adults have already been through. Therefore, the impact of attention deficits, memory deficits and other problems is usually much more significant.
  • The repercussions of acquired brain damage will affect learning throughout the school years, to a greater extent the lower the age of the child at the time the ABD occurs.

What do we offer at SJD Barcelona Children’s Hospital?

Diagnosis

Neurology
Neuropsychology
Clinical Psychology
Psychiatry
Speech therapy

Treatment

Neuropsychological rehabilitation
Psychoeducation
Cognitive intervention
Compensatory strategies
Cognitive behavioural approach
Advice to the school
Advice to the family
Medical treatment

Progress monitoring

Follow-up visits depending on the needs identified

Frequently asked questions about Acquired Brain Damage

Is complete recovery possible?

The long-term prognosis in the case of brain damage is difficult to predict. The brain is in the process of development which means that very frequently, the effects are not immediately evident. Unlike adults, children recover basic sensory and motor skills as well as language extraordinarily quickly.

In mild cases, some difficulties may arise that are resolved in a more or less short period of time. In severe cases, difficulties may become evident as the child has to develop more complex skills to be able to respond to the growing demands of their environment.

What are the most common sequalae?

The sequalae largely depend on the type of brain damage and area of the brain affected. Some of the most common cognitive problems are related to:

  • Executive functions.
  • Attention problems.
  • Memory.
  • Learning: acquisition of new information.

Behavioural and mood problems are commonly seen. There may be difficulties in terms of self-control of behaviour, with disproportionate or socially inappropriate reactions. It is quite common for there to be no direct relationship between the cognitive and behavioural problems.

Although it is less common, sometimes learning that has already been consolidated may be affected.

What will happen at school?

When children with brain damage return to school, their educational needs are often very different from before. It is therefore important to carefully plan the child’s return to school.

Everyone, teachers and students alike, must be aware of the possible changes in the child’s learning and demeanour.

Close coordination between the different rehabilitation professionals, the school and family is essential because, in some cases, it will be necessary to adapt the student’s curriculum to their circumstances or even have a teaching assistant in the classroom.

What is the objective of neuropsychological rehabilitation?

Neuropsychological rehabilitation aims to improve cognitive, emotional, psychosocial and behavioural deficits and establish compensation strategies for the most altered functions. In addition, in childhood rehabilitation, it is essential to take into account the academic or educational learning aspects, as well as the family.

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