Joe’s Story- a guest post by Cheryl Abrahams from Bolt Burdon Kemp

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I am delighted that Bolt Burdon Kemp’s child brain injury team is once again supporting the Child Brain Injury Trust’s campaign during Action for Brain Injury Week, from 8 – 14 May 2017. This year they are focussing on raising awareness of brain injuries in very young children. This is an area very close to the hearts of the child brain injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp because we know, through our work, that the effects of a brain injury in a very young child can be devastating, and are often poorly understood. There is a real danger that lack of education and information about the consequences of a brain injury leads to inappropriate labelling of difficult behaviour which is negative and damaging for the child in the long term. In order to highlight this, I will share with you some information about one of our current clients who I will call “Joe”.

Joe’s story
Joe was 21 months old when he suffered serious brain injuries in a car accident. He had not been strapped into his car seat properly, so when the driver lost control and crashed into a wall, Joe’s head hit the front seat of the car causing him to suffer multiple open skull fractures and devastating brain injuries. He was taken to hospital by air ambulance where he had surgery to fix the fractures before being transferred to the intensive care unit.

Now aged eight, Joe is still suffering from the effects of his severe brain injuries. He has difficulties in many areas including the following:

  • Attention
  • Concentration
  • Impulsivity
  • Executive function (eg ability to plan and organise)
  • Behaviour
  • Fatigue

These difficulties have affected all areas of Joe’s life. His challenging behaviour led to Joe being excluded from his nursery, as well as many problems at school. Joe’s teachers have complained that he is easily distracted, argumentative, disruptive, uncooperative and attention seeking. On occasion, Joe has been rude to teachers and violent towards other pupils. His teachers have struggled to cope with Joe’s behaviour. As a result, he was often left alone to play in one part of the room while the other children completed tasks with the teacher.

We arranged for Joe to be assessed by a number of doctors who made recommendations for treatment and support to help Joe and his family manage his difficulties. In particular, Joe was assessed by an educational psychologist who said that Joe’s complex needs, because of his brain injury, were beyond the expertise of most teachers. She recommended that Joe’s teachers receive specialist training to help them understand and manage his behaviour. She also recommended that Joe have specialist one to one teaching support at school. We worked closely with Joe’s school in recruiting the right teaching assistant to work with him and in arranging training for Joe’s teachers.

Joe’s difficulties at school are very typical for a child with brain injuries, however, lack of awareness and training led to him being labelled as “naughty”. It also led to him being isolated from his peers because his teachers did not know how to manage his behaviour. Clearly, if this had continued, it would have been very damaging for Joe.

Joe continues to have complex needs due to his brain injury; however, the additional support that Joe and his teachers have received is producing positive results. His teachers have a better understanding of his injuries, and how to manage his difficulties; therefore, Joe is more settled at school.

Joe’s compensation claim will pay for the support that he needs following his brain injuries, but there are other children who are struggling with similar difficulties who do not have a claim to fund the support they need. That’s why this campaign is so important The Child Brain Injury Trust will be delivering free brain injury awareness sessions to staff at day care settings, playschools and nurseries. They will also be working with childcare professionals across the UK to design a new, tailor-made training programme for staff working with young children. This will potentially benefit every child with a brain injury, not just those with a compensation claim.

This blog has been written by Cheryl Abrahams, a Partner in the Child Brain Injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp. Cheryl is a member of the CBIT London Legal Support Service. To seek advice from Cheryl, or any of our other legal partners, please contact us on Telephone number: 0303 303 0157 Text number: 07984 357 995 email: londonlegal@cbituk.org