U of O
The Center on Brain Injury
Research & Training

Family Recovery Patterns After a TBI

Families tend to progress through general stages of adjustment after a child has had a brain injury. These are general phases and are not necessarily experienced by all families.

Overwhelming shock is how many caregivers characterize the time after they received the news of their child's brain injury. During this time, the family is focused on the survival of the child.

Disbelief regarding the effects of the injury. Families and educators often believe that with enough effort the student can completely overcome what has happened. This time can be mixed with euphoria as a student makes rapid physical recovery. For students with a mild or closed brain injury, a refusal of necessary support services may occur at this time.

Sorrow and despondency are how many families describe what they feel next. This phase can be combined with feelings of anger as families begin to realize that their child is changed permanently.

Adaptation is reached over time, often after the family has reorganized around the new needs and abilities of their child. Stress related to adaptation is often higher for families who have an adolescent with moderate to severeTBI, compared to students who have an orthopedic injury.

Adapted from:

Semrud-Clikeman, M., Kutz, A., Strassner, E., (2004). Providing Neuropsychological Services to Learners with Traumatic Brain Injuries. InHandbook of School Neuropsychology. D'Amato, R., Fletcher, Janzen, E., Reynolds C.R., John Wiley Sons: Hoboken, NJ.