The Brain Injury Association of America says an acquired brain injury (ABI) is an injury to the brain that is not hereditary, congenital, degenerative, or induced by birth trauma – it is a brain injury that has occurred after birth. There are two types of acquired brain injury: non-traumatic (often called acquired) and traumatic.

A non-traumatic brain injury, often called acquired brain injury, causes damage to the brain by internal factors, such as a lack of oxygen, exposure to toxins, or pressure from a tumor.

According to the CDC, a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is an injury that affects how the brain works. It may be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or a penetrating injury.

TBI affects children differently than adults. An injury of any severity to the developing brain may:

  • Disrupt a child’s development
  • Limit their ability to participate in school and other activities, like sports

A TBI can cause children to experience changes in their health, thinking, and behavior that affect learning, self-regulation, and social participation.

Early Intervention and Treatment

All TBIs require immediate assessment by a professional who has experience evaluating head injuries. 

Many factors—including the brain injury’s size, severity, and location—influence how it is treated and how quickly a person might recover. The NIH outlines treatments based on various factors and the severity of the injury.

According to NIH, children might be unable to let others know that they feel different following a blow to the head. A child with a TBI may display the following signs or symptoms:

  • Changes in eating or nursing habits
  • Persistent crying, irritability, or crankiness; inability to be consoled
  • Changes in ability to pay attention
  • Lack of interest in a favorite toy or activity
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Seizures
  • Sadness or depression
  • Loss of a skill, such as toilet training
  • Loss of balance or unsteady walking
  • Vomiting

Alaska Traumatic and Acquired Brain Injury (TABI) Program: resources and information

Center for Parent Training and Information: resources, information related to school services, and support for parents

CDC Heads Up: information to help recognize, respond to, and minimize the risk of concussion or other serious brain injury

State of Alaska Preventing Traumatic Brain Injuries: information and local resources to help find support after a traumatic brain injury