Dr. Lorraine Freedle has spent years studying the brain and how injury impacts development. One of her main focuses is how brain injury affects children in particular. Unlike adults, their brains are still developing. The full impact of the injury is not always noticeable at first. It may become more apparent over time as the child is expected to complete more complex activities.
Sometimes these difficulties are misidentified as other conditions such as a learning disability, an emotional disability, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. With a proper diagnosis, parents are able to more effectively get their children the help and support they need to reach their potential, asserts Dr. Lorraine Freedle.
Understanding the Brain
The brain is a very complex organ that controls all of the functions of the body. It is protected by the skull to help prevent injury. Since the brain has a consistency similar to dense Jell-O, a strong impact can cause it knock against the sides of the skull. This can result in bruising, stretching, or tearing of the delicate surface.
The brain is divided into five main regions, each one responsible for different functions.
1. Frontal Lobe – motor planning, expressive language, executive function.
2. Temporal Lobe – learning and memory, understanding language, hearing, sequencing.
3. Parietal Lobe – sensation, visual-spatial perception.
4. Occipital Lobe – vision.
5. Limbic Lobe – drive, emotion, memory.
Should one or more of these areas become damaged, it impacts the child’s development and ability to function properly.
What Causes Injury?
Injury to the brain can occur in a number of ways, points out Dr. Lorraine Freedle. Some children are born with neurodevelopmental abnormalities due to congenital or hereditary conditions, or prenatal exposure to drugs or alcohol. Premature birth or low birth weight can also put them at higher risk. In addition, any significant lack of oxygen at birth can have life-long impacts and alter development.
Some children acquire brain injuries as a result of certain medical conditions they experience. These conditions include strokes, seizures, substance abuse, infectious disease, or lack of oxygen to the brain. The child began developing normally but then this process was interrupted.
A third type of brain injury is traumatic brain injury (TBI). This is caused by external force to the head. TBI can occur due to an automobile accident, sports injury, assault, fall, pedestrian or bike accident, child abuse, or other means. The sudden impact jars the brain and causes it to become damaged.
Dr. Lorraine Freedle Explains the Role of Pediatric Neuropsychologists
“Following any type of head injury, it is important to have the child thoroughly evaluated,” says Dr. Lorraine Freedle, certified pediatric neuropsychologist. “While they may appear relatively unharmed physically, there could still be brain damage. Parents are often told their child is fine, but later on they may notice social, emotional, or learning difficulties as a result of the injury.”
What is a pediatric neuropsychologist?
A pediatric neuropsychologist is a licensed psychologist with special training regarding learning and behavior in relation to the brain. They have a thorough knowledge of the structures and functions of the brain and how they develop and operate. When a child suffers a brain injury, they can help parents to understand how it has affected their memory, attention, perception, coordination, language, and personality. This can allow parents, teachers, therapists, and other medical professionals to develop a plan to best support the child’s development and learning.
What type of testing do they perform?
Unlike traditional educational or cognitive testing, a pediatric neuropsychologist performs more extensive evaluations that include the child’s strengths and deficits. They assess areas such as:
· Attention and concentration
· Information processing
· Memory and learning
· Executive functioning
· Psychosocial factors
The neuropsychologist will conduct testing using a variety of methods such as hands-on activities, paper and pencil exams, and questioning. They will then analyze and interpret the results so that they can make recommendations to address the child’s needs. The child’s scores are compared to those of a normally developing child of a similar age. This helps to show areas of strength and weakness.
How can a neuropsychological evaluation help?
This thorough examination can help to determine if the child’s struggles are a result of a brain injury or other type of disorder. All children are entitled to a free and appropriate education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Brain injury is an identified category that allows children to get the assistance they need to access their education. The neuropsychologist can provide their evaluation along with recommendations to help teachers and other educational professionals provide necessary accommodations for the child.
There are many strategies available for helping children to reach their potential. They can learn to use their strengths to support their weaknesses. With the right support and interventions, children with brain injuries can achieve their potential. Dr. Lorraine Freedle encourages parents to have their child evaluated by a pediatric neuropsychologist if they experience a brain injury.