Transitioning from Child to Adult After an Acquired Brain Injury

Teenager in Wheelchair
A child who acquires a brain injury will ideally have access to healthcare and rehabilitation services that are specific to pediatric patients. As the child crosses over into adulthood, such as in moving from a school program to a work program, there can be problems with transitioning from their familiar world into a new one. Some of those problems include poor continuity of care, misunderstandings from health care professionals, and a lack of preparation for bringing a child with a brain injury into adulthood. These young adults frequently feel lost, out of place, and sad to leave a familiar system.

Every acquired brain injury case is different, however, and so transition plans should be tailored to individuals. There has been a lack of research towards understanding those individual differences in transition, but a recent study has given a start by showing some differences in gender. One of the responsibilities of transitioning from childhood to adulthood after brain injury is becoming more responsible for one’s own health. Young adult women tend to maintain health and coping skills by making friends and using social support to keep themselves stable. Young men, however, tend to hide their disability from others—a coping mechanism that can be detrimental to their health, social skills, and problem solving—and instead focus on exercise to maintain health. Young women also tend to communicate a preference for having a female doctor, a preference that has been shown to create a trusting bond that can lead to better care. Young men tend not to communicate such preferences.

Special programs could focus on these differences between young men and women to promote transition readiness, especially in young men. Further research would help further shape these programs so that they are effective in supporting a difficult transition in life after acquired brain injury.

Source: Lindsay S, Proulx M, Maxwell J, et al. Gender and transition from pediatric to adult health care among youth with acquired brain injury: Experiences in a transition model. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. (February 2016).
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