Recovery Process

Myths & Facts about RECOVERY

MYTH Recovery will take about a year.

FACT When a child has a brain injury, the concept of recovery may be misleading.

Recovery typically means someone has lost abilities temporarily and will regain them such as a broken arm. For a person with a brain injury, although they may look the same, the changes are most likely long-lasting and adjustment is an ongoing process.

MYTH Recovery ends six months after the brain injury.

FACT There is no definite end point or timetable for recovery.

Recovery is most rapid in the first six months to a year after the brain is injured, but it continues long after. The term “plateau” describes the stage of recovery when the rate of improvement slows. Reaching a plateau means that the child is moving into the more gradual stage of long-term recovery, but NOT the end of progress. It is best to think of recovery as a continuum, rather then an end point. Also, it is important to note that the timetable for recovery varies from person to person.

MYTH A brain injury heals with time.

FACT It takes longer for all the effects of a brain injury to show up in children.

Brain development continues through adolescence and into a person’s mid- to late twenties. All the effects of a brain injury may not be known right away. Children are more active, schoolwork becomes more complex, and responsibilities increase over time. The brain of a growing child is steadily challenged to do more complex thinking, communicating, and learning. Over time, new difficulties may appear that are directly related to the brain injury. It is harder for people to connect an earlier brain injury with later difficulties in behavior and learning. For the child who has a brain injury, time reveals as well as heals.

MYTH Younger children heal better – a young brain can heal itself.

FACT There is increasing evidence that you children’s brains are particularly vulnerable to early brain trauma.

Cells that are in a rapid state of development are more susceptible to damage. Future brain development may be impacted by early brain injury.

MYTH Younger children recover better than older children.

FACT The younger the child is when injured, the less developed is the brain.

It takes longer to see the effects of a brain injury in a young child because basic skills like language, arithmetic, reading, and writing are still developing. The young child is still learning basic social skills and relies on adults for supervision and guidance. Younger children are at greater risk for difficulties in the future because early brain development has been interrupted.

MYTH Physical recovery is a sign that the brain has healed.

FACT Cognitive recovery is different than physical recovery.

Cognition is a term experts use to describe abilities like reasoning, memory, and attention. Changes in learning, memory, and behavior are the most common long-term effects of brain injuries among youth. It is hard for people to understand that a child who looks “okay” physically may still have a disability. Recovery of physical abilities like walking and speaking does not mean that the brain has healed. Broken bones and cuts heal with the growth of new bone and skin, but the brain does not heal as easily.

MYTH How quickly a child recovers from a brain injury depends mainly on how hard they work at recovering.

FACT No two children with brain injuries are alike and recovery varies widely between children with similar injuries. It is unfair to a student to make predictions or judgments about their progress.

MYTH When a student looks good, they are fully recovered.

FACT The better a student looks, the harder it is to recognize their learning and cognitive needs. This is common because physical recovery typically comes before cognitive recovery and happens at a faster rate. Often students are misidentified as having attention or learning problems after their physical injuries have healed.

*Information is obtained and adapted from School Transition & re-Entry Program Information for Parents (STEP) and The Center on Brain Injury Research & Training (CBIRT). Visit CBIRT for more information on STEP.