Traumatic Brain Injury in Preschoolers

Traumatic brain injury in children under the age of five can occur when the child falls in the playground, is injured in a motor vehicle accident or is the victim of child abuse. Traumatic brain injury can be as minor as a concussion or as severe as having brain swelling and herniation. It has the potential to cause long term behavioral or cognitive deficits in the child. For this reason, it is important to do research to look into the long term outcome in children who suffer a severe brain injury as preschoolers.

In one study, a cohort of children was studied until adulthood. They looked at children who suffered from traumatic brain injury from January 1959 to 1969. All the children suffered traffic-related injuries. The results showed that 59 percent or 23 children went to a regular school whereas 21 percent attended a school for the physically disabled. Eighteen percent attended schools for the mentally retarded and the information for one child was not found.

When they reached adulthood 23 percent were able to work full time and 26 percent worked in specific workplaces for the disabled, 36 percent were able to live independently while six or 15 percent required psychological or physical support. It was found that having a good sense of identity meant that the child had a good outcome. They found that good school performance or being able to attend a normal school did not necessarily mean that the child could live independently or work independently as an adult.

Children who sustain a traumatic brain injury from a motor vehicle accident as a preschooler suffer from problems that last until adulthood. There are problems with cognition, memory, behavioral issues and problem solving. Many cannot live independently at their own home when they reach adulthood because they suffer from some kind of deficit as noted above. Many cannot work full time but can work at a structured workplace for the physically or mentally disabled if such programs exist in their location. The rest are labeled “disabled” and receive some sort of social security disability.

What wasn’t looked at in the study was the social functioning of these children? Were any able to sustain any type of relationship with a significant other or were any able to marry and have children on their own? There had to be a significant effect on the patient’s family who had to raise a child with a disability and who may not be able to get their child out of the home when they reach the age of maturity. Such families may need to maintain some sort of care over their disabled child indefinitely.

A motor vehicle accident is tragic. It is even more tragic when the preschool-age child sustains a closed head injury and traumatic brain injury as a result of the accident. The child gets over the immediate crisis only to have a prolonged course of physical and emotional therapy in order to achieve the maximum amount of recovery possible.

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