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Early-Childhood Brain Injuries Can Have Long-Term Effects

Children who suffer brain injuries in early childhood can experience lingering effects for at least 10 years, according to a study published in the February issue of Pediatrics.

Given that roughly one in 30 children suffers a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, by age 16, these findings could end up having an impact on athletics for children in the early grades.

The study is a follow-up to previous research that investigated the effects of TBIs in children for five years after the injury. In that study, children who had suffered TBIs were at "elevated risk of poor outcomes," especially if they had endured severe TBIs.

Of the 96 children (from Melbourne, Australia) in the original study who had suffered TBIs between the ages of 2 and 7, 40 agreed to participate in this follow-up. Seven of the 40 had mild TBIs, 20 of them had moderate TBIs, and the other 13 experienced severe TBIs. Sixteen of the 32 healthy children in the control group from the original study also participated in this new research.

Much like the previous findings, young children who suffered severe TBIs suffered the most severe deficits, even years after the injury. Overall, their mean IQ scores were lower by 18 to 26 points 10 years after their brain injuries.

This suggests that "serious TBI in early childhood results in global and persisting intellectual deficits," the researchers write.

Adults and school-age children, on the other hand, tend to return to their original IQ levels after suffering a TBI.

According to the study, children with mild TBIs, such as concussions, appeared to eventually rebound to their original levels of functioning, too.

The researchers determined that, no matter the severity of the injury, recovery appeared to plateau in the five- to 10-year range.

The children with severe TBIs may never catch up to their peers (as demonstrated by their lower IQ scores), but the gap doesn't appear to widen further, either, the researchers conclude.

—Bryan Toporek


12 Education Issues to Watch in 2012

What policies have the biggest potential to drive changes in education in the states in 2012?

The Education Commission of the States, a nonpartisan research organization, has put out its predictions. It sees state officials focusing on prekindergarten-through-3rd grade instruction, strategies to figure out ways to make the best use of limited funding, and "blended learning"—or combining online and face-to-face instruction—among other topics.

The ECS' forecast, "12 for 2012," is not meant as an exhaustive list of hot topics, the organization explains. It's instead meant to "stimulate thinking around how best to craft the '2.0' of powerful policy across the states," based on the organization's read on current trends and research, the authors of the report say.

Other emerging issues to watch over the next year include:

• Implementing the "common core" academic standards;

• Improving teacher quality—such as figuring out how newly promised models for evaluating educators will actually work;

• Promoting improved approaches to education in rural and impoverished communities;

• Focusing on "individualized" instruction to meet the needs of diverse students (even as few state models exist that show what accomplishing this is supposed to look like, the ECS says); and

• Improving the use of data, particularly to identify struggling learners early.

—Sean Cavanagh

Vol. 31, Issue 19, Page 9

Published in Print: February 1, 2012, as Blogs of the Week
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