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John Hunter Hospital School

John Hunter Hospital School

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Acquired Brain Injury

Supporting Students with Acquired Brain Injury

The brain is responsible for the most complex of human functions such as thinking, problem solving, emotions, consciousness, and social behaviour. It, therefore, essentially controls and defines your personality or who you are. It also controls basic bodily functions such as breathing, eating, sleeping, moving, and the five senses and is responsible for how we think, feel, perceive and act in the world – it is the organisation of who we are.

If an external force is strong enough to either fracture the cranial bones, or an internal rotational force occurs due to impact causing the brain to hit or scrape against the inside of the skull, the brain will tear and/or neurons will be damaged – and we will change.

What is Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)?               

Acquired Brain injury (ABI) is any type of sudden injury that causes temporary or permanent damage to the brain. ABI can be divided into two categories.

  • Traumatic: resulting from an external force applied to the head/brain. Example: damage that is associated with some kind of trauma to the head, such as concussion, a fall, or a motor vehicle collision.
  • Non-traumatic: resulting from an internal source that inflicts injury to the brain. Example: anoxia (near drowning), toxicity, infection, or cerebral vascular accident (stroke).

Brain injury has been called the 'hidden disability', as problems of thinking, memory, reasoning, communication and behaviour are those most involved, and these are often not readily observable. Family, members, friends and acquaintances may often misunderstand the child with brain injury. The child may feel ignored, depressed anxious or may display social inappropriateness, acting out behaviour or agression.

The effects of brain injury may range from mild to severe and may be temporary or permanent. Often a child with brain injury will have long-term disabilities. They may learn to compensate for many of these disabilities, but the injury will not ordinarily disappear completely, even with appropriate treatment and rehabilitation.

Brain injuries may result in a child having both learning and psychological difficulties in the following areas:

  • Cognitive functioning - including difficult learning, processing and retaining new information.
  • Gross motor skills - balance and walking may be affected.
  • Fine motor skills - difficulty in writing, drawing, and cutting as muscles may have been tightened or contracted.
  • Behavioural and emotional functioning - aggression, hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattention, mood swings.
  • Speech difficulties - pronouncing words, language, formulating sentences.
  • Auditory processing difficulties - difficulty following group conversations especially if there is background noise, difficulty following instructions.
  • Short-term memory - difficulty remembering a series of instructions, difficulty recalling information recently learnt/taught.

Download brain areas and their roles (PDF 191KB) for more information.