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About Brain Injury

Symptoms & Recovery in Children

Any or all of the following symptoms or impairments may occur to different degrees in children who have sustained a brain injury. The nature of the injury and its consequences can range from mild to severe, and the course of recovery is very difficult to predict for any given child. With early diagnosis and ongoing therapeutic intervention, the severity of these symptoms may decrease. Symptoms can vary greatly depending on the extent and location of the brain injury. Impairments in one or more areas (such as cognitive functioning, physical abilities, communication, or social/behavioral disruption) are common.

Physical Impairments Cognitive Impairments Emotional Impairments


short term memory deficits

mood swings


impaired concentration



slowness of thinking



limited attention span


motor coordination

impairments of perception


spasticity of muscles

communication skills

lowered self-esteem

paresis or paralysis


sexual dysfunction

seizure disorders





lack of motivation



difficulty controlling emotions

While the symptoms of a brain injury in children are similar to the symptoms experienced by adults, the functional impact can be very different. Children are not little adults. The brain of a child is continuing to develop. The assumption used to be a child with a brain injury would recover better than an adult because there was more “plasticity” in a younger brain, but recent research has shown that this is not the case. A brain injury actually has a more devastating impact on a child than an injury of the same severity on a mature adult.

The cognitive impairments of children may not be immediately obvious after the injury but may become apparent as the child gets older and faces increased cognitive and social expectations for new learning and more complex, socially appropriate behavior. These delayed effects can create lifetime challenges for living and learning for children, their families, schools, and communities. Some children may endure lifelong physical challenges. However, the greatest challenges many children with brain injury face are changes in their abilities to think, learn, and develop socially appropriate behaviors.

Common deficits after brain injury include difficulty in processing information, impaired judgment and reasoning. When an adult is injured, these deficits can become apparent in the months following the injury. For a child, it may be years before the deficits from the injury become apparent.