When it comes to supporting children who have suffered traumatic injury, there are further challenges to ensuring their mental health and wellbeing. In our series this week, we look at what the impact of injury may have on a child or young person’s mental health, and how good mental health can be supported.
This week is Children’s Mental Health Week and this year’s theme is ‘Let’s Connect’ which is all about making meaningful connections. Healthy connections are vital for supporting good mental health and sense of wellbeing.
Cognitive understanding and effective communication
The injury may have an impact on the child’s cognition in a variety of ways. Children who have sustained an acquired brain injury (ABI) may have trouble with spatial awareness, category formation, reasoning, memory, attention and language. In some cases, the child may be non-verbal.
It can be difficult for the child to express themselves or understand what is being said to them. They may not ‘read’ social cues like facial expressions, body language or tone of voice that they would have recognised before, and they may struggle with abstract words and ideas, as well as information processing.
We know as adults that not understanding and in particular not being understood is hugely frustrating. For a child it can result in anger, anxiety and depression. Children may withdraw from communicating which increases the risk of feeling isolated and impacting on overall recovery.
Specialist rehabilitation case managers can work with the child to help them improve their communication and positively impact on their mental health. Bringing in experts such as speech and language therapists means that together they can:
- Help the child express themselves through games, drawing, painting and other creative activities.
- Encourage the child to speak by engaging them in talking about something they enjoy doing or something they like.
- Support processing and recognition by asking questions, listening and helping them make associations with similar things.
- Improve recall and memory by recapping on what they’ve been talking about as well as reaffirming what has been discussed so that the child feels understood.
Giving the child or young person the time and space to communicate in a way that suits them helps to build confidence and enhances understanding between everyone.
If you’d like to find out more, please get in touch with the Children and Young People’s Services Team.