Sam talks about how pressures on children and young people following ABI can add to stress and anxiety at a challenging time of their lives and how our case managers can provide a guiding light.
“Childhood is a precious time; a time to learn, grow, explore and experience firsts along the way. Add the trauma and complexities of an ABI in to that childhood and that precious time can be a time of anxiety, stress and frustration.
One of the ways we see stress and anxiety present in a child or young person with an ABI is within education. Going back to school with difficulties that many may not understand, including themselves, can be extremely difficult for a child and wanting to fit back in with peers can be daunting.
Depending on the age of the child or young person there will be varying levels of understanding about their injury and how this will, and has, changed their life. They may have the same hopes and dreams but may fear that some of these may not seem so achievable any more.
Pressure from teachers and other professionals, albeit for a valid reason, is then added on top. For example, a teacher may adapt lessons and encourage the child or young person to take regular breaks but that person may see their friends still running about in the playground or taking part in their regular lessons but those lessons may be different to theirs. Children are keen to fit in and this difference can create feelings of exclusion and loneliness.
Fatigue is a common challenge following an ABI. It’s not visible like a broken leg where there is an obvious sign of the injury; the signs of fatigue can be difficult to spot. There’s no battery pack on the body to demonstrate what level of fatigue a child or young person is experiencing and so to help them manage this fatigue, without feeling like parents or professionals are controlling them, education is key; educating the child or young person to recognise their own signs and to accept that it’s ok to not be ok and take some time out and that it’s important that the people around them know how they feel.
One young boy I worked with didn’t want his friends to know about his new limitations, he wanted to continue to be the ‘same as before’ and was desperate to fit in with his peers. However, with a change in his lesson plan and having to take regular breaks throughout the day it was apparent to his friends that he wasn’t the same boy as he was before the injury. He was also anxious about his impending GCSEs and put himself under additional pressure studying at the weekends whilst he constantly wondered if his hopes of college and beyond would still be realised.
These feelings and worries manifested in him demonstrating his frustration in his home. In situations like this it’s vital that the case manager supports the family to access strategies to help their child or young person understand and cope and manage the behaviour that is a challenge, at the same time as focusing on their strengths and achievements. Our case managers have worked with other families that have travelled a similar journey and have a wealth of knowledge and experience in how to access the right statutory and private services. With so many different services available, which all differ from county to county, the case manager can take this additional pressure away from the family and help guide them through the choices of services that are available to them.
One of the key strengths in the Child Brain Injury Rehabilitation Service is that families can access education from the Child Brain Injury Trust (CBIT) and their highly skilled family support officers. This direct relationship means we can very easily signpost people to the CBIT services that work within the home, at school, wherever it is needed to support the young person to rebuild their life.
As a parent/carer, you want to nurture and care for your child or young person but may find yourself faced with endless conversations about your child’s care, the therapies they need, what lessons they can/can’t do at school, whether they will cope with exams etc. The best part of our role in my view is that our case managers can take some of that pressure off the family to leave the family to be a family; to experience and enjoy family life today without the stress and anxiety of tomorrow.”
By Samantha Hadley, Child Brain Injury Rehabilitation Services Operations Manager