Some children are born with brain injuries, such as cerebral palsy. Some have genetic conditions like Down Syndrome. And some have developmental delays with unknown causes. For children who are not meeting their developmental milestones -- for whatever reason — early intervention helps them learn the skills they haven’t yet mastered. Sometimes it is a matter of strengthening muscles, sometimes it is learning to use muscles a certain way, and sometimes it has to do with figuring out problems or with language. Whatever the cause of a delay, it involves the brain.
Nerves in the brain send messages to the body, asking it to do something like roll over or sit up. Then the muscles have to get the message and do what they are told. It becomes a conversation between the brain and the muscles, negotiating how to accomplish the task. Therapists use different movements to help the muscles perform their task, or to help a child perform the task repeatedly to learn how to do it. All these activities contribute to the development of nerve pathways in the brain. It is like paving a road; each layer makes it stronger and more permanent.
If a child has had brain damage or malformation due to trauma, illness or a genetic disorder, the therapy can help to build new pathways.
Early identification of delays, for any reason, is very important. The sooner intervention is started, the faster a child can learn the skills that are missing and, hopefully, catch up with peers before they enter school. All children should be screened for their development. Now Easterseals is offering a free developmental screening tool — The Ages and Stages Questionnaires®. If you are a child’s parent or caregiver, complete this free screening tool and you will receive results in two weeks.
Around the age of 7, the brain experiences a “growth spurt” of neural connections followed by a pruning of unused connections. This process leads to faster, more efficient connections. Researchers believe that this process occurs again sometime in a person’s early twenties. In fact, it is not until around age 30 that a person’s brain has reached full development.
Providing opportunities to practice these developing “executive functions” is important in these brain growth years. Easterseals camps, after-school programs, behavioral interventions and mental health programs all help to support and encourage healthy development during this vital time of brain development.
At Easterseals we believe that nearly everyone can work!
For individuals who have developmental delays, traumatic brain injury or other conditions affecting the brain, there are many programs that can help a young adult by supporting independence. Supported employment and other workforce development programs can provide the support and feedback a young adult needs to perform a job, act in a work place, respond to unexpected problems arise, and make their needs known. These programs can also provide support and help in the job-seeking skills such as writing a resume, filling out an application and how to interview successfully for a job.
Each year, U.S. emergency departments (EDs) treat an estimated 173,285 sports- and recreation-related TBIs (traumatic brain injuries), including concussions among children and adolescents, from birth to 19 years. During the last decade, ED visits for sports- and recreation-related TBIs, including concussions among children and adolescents, increased by 60% (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). National attention toward concussions and brain injury was further evidenced by the first-ever White House Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit, held on May 29th, to advance research on sports-related youth concussions and raise awareness of steps to prevent, identify and respond to concussions in young people.
Easterseals is at the forefront of concussive injury work by offering neurocognitive functioning assessment services (baseline testing). Through the Easterseals Community Concussion Resource Program at our affiliate sites, brain health liaisons are trained to conduct cognitive baseline testing for youth ages 11 to 22. Easterseals brain health liaisons administer the computer-based ImPACT Test that is used widely across school, communities, sports and recreation. Baseline data is important as a reference point to understanding the severity and treatment interventions should a youth sustain a concussion.
If a concussion occurs, Easterseals brain health liaisons will work with youth, families, medical professionals, and schools to identify and provide the most appropriate treatment interventions that are aligned with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control. Baseline information about cognitive functioning can improve the efficiency of post-concussion management services and thereby, facilitate the best outcomes for youth to live, learn, work, and play in their community.
For people with and without disabilities, brain health becomes more critical as we get older. While we used to believe that memory loss was a normal part of aging, we now know it isn’t. Science has debunked the belief that we lose large amounts of brain cells as we age. Learning, and the production of neurons, often continue until late in life.
Many activities and lifestyle choices affect brain health, including physical activity, socialization and the pursuit of stimulating interests. Easterseals promotes brain health within its adult and senior services through a variety of approaches, activities and programs. These include:
Through Easterseals programs, people with disabilities are provided with opportunities and empowered to maintain or rebuild lifelong interests, learn new skills, engage in new experiences and develop meaningful relationships.
Our National Aging and Disability Transportation Center increases transportation options for older adults and enhances their ability to live more independently within their communities.