Brain Injury in Early Years – Katie’s Story

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During Action for Brain Injury Week 2017, the Child Brain Injury Trust has launched our campaign aimed at staff working in Early Years childcare settings.  Taking care of babies and young children is very hard work and accidents can happen very easily. We have been sharing stories of families from across the UK who are keen to help us raise awareness of brain injury in young children. As Action for Brain Injury Week comes to an end we have one more story to share with you…

Katie, a nine month old baby, was being changed on a changing table by her mother, when she fell off. She landed on the floor and hit her head. Katie fractured her skull and suffered a bleed on the brain. Understandably, Katie’s mother felt extremely guilty even though it was a terrible accident. This one moment has completely changed Katie’s life; she now has a serious hidden condition, an acquired brain injury.

After the accident, Katie underwent a number of procedures in hospital including an evacuation of the fluid build up. After two weeks in hospital, she was discharged. Katie’s mother was told that Katie would make a complete recovery, something which the family now knows was incorrect and wishful thinking.

It is now eight years since the accident. Katie has returned to school, but has unfortunately missed key milestones. Her speech is delayed and she needs one-to-one help at school. At pre-school Katie would have violent outbursts and did not thrive in the class setting. Her social skills and ability to make friends were way behind her peers’.

One event had a severe impact on Katie’s life: a fire alarm went off in her lunch break and continued to ring for 30 minutes. Katie dislikes loud sounds because of the brain injury so this distressed and traumatised her. As a result, Katie did not eat at lunchtime for a whole year because she was scared that the alarm would go off again. Hearing any alarm or continued loud noise now still causes terror so Katie and her family are on constant alert.

Katie’s mother always knew there was something wrong but because it was so long since the accident, both Katie and her family found it extremely difficult to get the support they needed. Katie’s mum’s main concern is around Katie’s future and what that holds for her. She said “I felt I was banging my head against a brick wall all the time. Katie was violent at home to us all and the frustration in everyday activities was evident and distressing for everyone. Even the simplest of things was made difficult, especially around loud noises… It is both hard and distressing to see Katie’s daily struggle just to do the simple things in life and know that other children it is natural and second nature… “.  The Child Brain Injury Trust asked Katie’s mother about her experiences and how the situation could have been improved. She advised other parents to change nappies on the floor, rather than on changing tables. She also pleaded with health professionals, to not say that a child will make a full recovery if this is unknown because “false hope is damaging to families and delays them in getting timely help and support”.

But one day in 2014, Katie’s dad contacted the Child Brain Injury Trust. As a result, the family were referred to their local Child and Family Support Co-Ordinator. The relationship with the school’s Special Education Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) is brilliant now and Katie’s Mum feels that every support is given at school. Because of the one-to-one help she receives, Katie’s Maths and English are improving, and she is now able to work independently and also participate in group work.

Katie’s mother said: “The Child Brain Injury Trust helped massively to access funding for support in school. They also went in to train everyone at school, from the SENCO to the dinner ladies. Everyone was given access to acquired brain injury training. This had a significant impact. Even the dinner ladies know how to handle Katie, to understand that she needs support not punishment. The Child Brain Injury Trust’s Child and Family Support Co-Ordinator changed the mindset of the school and now they all love Katie”.

Please help us to help more families by supporting our campaign, to find out more please visit https://childbraininjurytrust.org.uk/support-us/campaigns/action-for-brain-injury-week/