You get in a car accident when an 18-wheeler does not stop in time and rear-ends your vehicle in a construction zone. Your child is in the back seat during the crash. You both get airlifted to a nearby hospital.
Immediately after the wreck, your child does not seem to have any serious injuries. Everything turns out far better than the emergency crews anticipated. You count yourself lucky on the way home, knowing you could have gotten killed.
Then, two years later, your child starts to have some cognitive problems. You cannot figure it out. No other accidents occurred. Finally, you start wondering if these problems could relate back to that semi crash.
A developing child
The problem here could be that your child is still developing and growing. Many times, experts warn that children suffer brain injuries and slowly “grow into” the symptoms.
The basic idea is that the child’s brain, if it was completely healthy, would develop properly for the child’s age. More complicated tasks become possible. Higher-level thoughts fit together. The child learns complex skills.
If the child suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), though, the impact may appear invisible at first because of the child’s natural cognitive limitations. As the child gets older, the brain fails to grow and develop properly, and then these limitations become clear.
Reading: An example
For instance, perhaps your child was just 2 years old when the accident occurred. He or she could not read yet. However, at two, you did not expect it. The child was just starting to learn how to speak in short sentences. Reading was a long way off at that point, so you did not worry.
By age five, though, the child still could not read. This is when you started to worry. The skill should have developed and failed to do so because of the injury. The child’s age just masked the symptoms.
Many times, when you read about common symptoms after traumatic brain injuries, they include things like:
- Decreased motor skills
- Trouble speaking
- Mood swings
- Trouble with highly cognitive tasks, such as reading
- Problems walking
In an adult, these symptoms appear obvious right away. Skills notably diminish.
In a child, though, is it as obvious? Your young child may already have trouble with simple motor skills just because those skills haven’t developed yet. Issues with walking, speaking and reading are also common — they’re not issues at all, just part of the growing process. The same is true of mood swings.
That’s not to say you can never identify symptoms, but just that there is a risk that they’ll go unnoticed early on and show up as the child grows into them. Make sure you understand all of your options if this happens.