New Resource Targets Children with ‘Mild’ Acquired Brain Injury
Thursday June 16, 2011
Beaumont Hospital School today launched a new web-based resource to help teachers throughout Ireland assess and manage the effects of brain injuries on children's learning patterns.
As the national referral centre for neurosurgery, every year Beaumont Hospital treats children aged six years and upwards who have a wide variety of brain injuries. Most of these will attend the school in St. Raphael's Ward while they are in the hospital.
On leaving hospital those with obvious learning difficulties as a result of their injuries will often go on to rehabilitation and have significant special education supports in place on their return to school.
But many more with "mild" acquired brain injury will return to their normal "home" schools. It is children in this group who are at risk of not receiving the special attention or understanding they may need in order to flourish educationally.
Beaumont Hospital School Principal Ms Avril Carey undertook research two years ago into how a group of children who had attended Beaumont with acquired brain injury had fared on returning to school. This confirmed that some, although by no means all, children and young people with mild ABI may have consequent learning or behavioural difficulties, including problems with memory, attention span and reasoning.
"Many aspects of ABI are often misunderstood," Ms Carey says. "For example, fatigue or poor planning and organisational skills may be misinterpreted as laziness or apathy while disinhibition as a result of frontal lobe damage may simply be regarded as wilful behaviour. Memory difficulties may also require the use of different teaching approaches to those which worked for the child in the past."
The findings of her research prompted Ms Carey to develop, with the assistance of colleagues in the hospital, a set of resources to help teachers in "home" schools identify and address such problems where they exist.
These resources include check lists which can be used by teachers at six and 12 month intervals to assess whether the brain injury is affecting learning patterns. Armed with a better understanding of any underlying difficulties children may be experiencing, teachers can employ appropriate classroom strategies which can also be accessed through the Beaumont Hospital School's web site.
"As teachers in a hospital we work in the often grey area where health and education overlap. We realised that sharing our knowledge and experience with other educators could help to ensure that children in this group do not fall between two stools," Ms Carey points out.
In the longer term, she hopes, with the involvement of the Department of Education it may be possible to develop more formal protocols covering the return of children and young people with mild acquired brain injury from hospital to normal schools.
This important new ABI resource for teachers is one aspect of a bright new multimedia web site developed by Beaumont Hospital School to stimulate children attending it and to help them keep in touch with their peers in their "home" schools.
The hospital's school provides education for approximately 200 children each year, many of them attending Beaumont for such national specialist services such as cochlear implantation and renal transplantation as well as neurosurgery. Children are taught in the school on St Raphael's Ward or at their bedside. The school also provides an outreach service to children attending the The National Orthopaedic Hospital in Cappagh Finglas.
The development of the school's new web site has been made possible by generous donations from a number of its former pupils and through fund raising by their friends in their "home" schools. Pupils at St Dympna's Kildalkey National School, Co Meath, Gaelscoil na Bóinne, Trim, Co Meath and Raphoe Central National School, Co Donegal, raised funds for the project.
Dublin's Lord Mayor Gerry Breen and former Beaumont Hospital School pupil Matthew McGee of Raphoe, Donegal,
share a joke at the launch today (Thursday 16 June, 2011) of the new web site.
Mathew is one of a number of former pupils who have raised funds to support the web project.