You can’t often tell something is wrong by their appearance, and your first impression of them might seem absolutely normal. But children and adults living with brain injuries are more prevalent in society than you might think, and they often struggle in silence.
An estimated one in four Coloradans has sustained a brain injury at sometime in their life in which they lost consciousness, according to a study from Craig Hospital’s research department. In addition, more than 500,000 Coloradans—children and adults—are living with the effects of a brain injury. To help these individuals, The Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado (BIAC) offers a variety of support services.
Elementary-age kids living with brain injuries can experience poor school performance despite hard work; behavior problems during unstructured times; disruption of reading, spelling, and math skills; and more, according to a report from the Colorado Department of Education.
“For someone who has recently had a brain injury, there is cognitive fatigue,” explains Cari Ledger, youth education liaison for the BIAC. Ledger provides brain injury education to schools so that children with brain injuries can be more successful in the classroom. “Sometimes it means going into a classroom and providing recommendations, or meeting one-on-one with a student and parent, or having formal meetings with special education teachers,” she says.
Ledger works with students as young as age three up to age 21. “They don’t always look like they have a disability, and people might assume they are capable, but they don’t have the skill set yet.” Generally, she sees growth and progress for the students when the school has a background on brain injury and can see the root of how the injury has affected the child’s abilities.
Adults with brain injuries often struggle with tasks related to scheduling, planning, organization, and communication, which can impact their relationships and limit their opportunities for employment. To help, BIAC offers a new Self-Management/Skill Building program for adults. In the free, six-month-long program, adults are taught tasks that have become a struggle, such as prioritizing a to-do list, using a calendar, and planning meals. Adults meet with a BIAC advisor one hour per week, and have homework throughout the course to practice their skills. “You could compare it to the work that a physical therapist would do, only for the brain,” says Liz Gerdeman, director of professional programs for BIAC.
The BIAC educates people on the difference between skill and will (coined by the Colorado Department of Education’s brain injury specialists), when it comes to having a brain injury. “Just because someone can’t do the work, doesn’t mean they aren’t motivated to do the work,” Gerdeman says. “And just because someone has a brain injury, doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of amazing things.”
How Families Can Help
- Register to participate in the Pikes Peak Challenge fundraising hike, with your family or a team, to help raise money and awareness for the BIAC’s programs.
- Volunteer to do basic office and administrative tasks in the BIAC’s Denver office.
- Serve as an extra hand to individuals who might need help during BIAC’s classes and workshops.
- Fill out an application to help with the BIAC’s adaptive recreation programs across the state.
March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. Nationally, the leading cause of brain injury is falls. For teens ages 15 to 19, the leading cause of brain injury is motor vehicle accidents.