The human brain—all three pounds of it, on average—is the most complex organ in the body. Every part of the brain is important, as each area has its own unique function. This month’s health observance is meant to bring attention to the varied difficulties that adults and children might face after suffering a brain injury. Moreover, Brain Injury Awareness Month is an opportunity to provide information and support to families and communities, while educating everyone on how brain injuries can impact learning and day-to-day functioning.
Parts of the brain
The brain is divided into sections called lobes, which are in charge of the body’s various functions and processes. This is why, depending on the severity of the injury, as well as the section or sections of the brain that are impacted, certain brain injuries can be immensely more devastating.
- Frontal lobe injuries likely impact behavior and impulsivity. More specifically, children with damage to the frontal lobe could experience issues revolving around attentiveness, concentration, organization, executive functioning skills, emotions, problem-solving, and judgment, among other things.
- Temporal lobe injuries typically impact one’s ability to communicate, specifically receptive language comprehension. Memory and hearing could also be impacted.
- Parietal lobe injuries (around the crown of the head), could mean deficits in spatial reasoning, shape recognition, and perceptive vision. Since the parietal lobe involves the senses, injuries likely impact the one or more of the child’s five senses.
- An injury to the brain stem, which connects the brain to the spinal cord, can have some of the most severe complications. Since the brain stem is in charge of managing basic life functions, such as heart rate and breathing, an injury involving the brain stem is often life-threatening.
- The cerebellum, found at the base of the skull, is in charge of motor control, movement, and balance. An injury to the cerebellum will likely impact coordination.
- An injury to the occipital lobe, which controls vision, might mean that a child struggles with visual-spatial impairments or the ability to determine size, color, shape, or location of objects. Visual memory might also be impacted.
Brain injuries sustained after birth that are not genetic or a result of a birth defect are called acquired brain injuries, or ABI. The two types of ABIs are broken down into two categories: traumatic brain injuries, caused by an external force, like a fall down the stairs or car accident, and non-traumatic brain injuries, cause by an internal force, like a stroke or tumor.
Because every injury is different and can vary in severity, recovery will look different from child to child. Regardless of whether a formal IEP or 504 plan exists, teachers should be prepared to make any number of accomodations for a student who has suffered a brain injury of any sort. Of course, parents, pediatricians, and neurologists will be able to provide more information on what the child will need in the academic setting, but in terms of how that will look in the classroom, check out Part II of this blog for specific strategies and considerations.