U of O
The Center on Brain Injury
Research & Training

Myths & Facts About TBI

There are many common misconceptions or myths about brain injuries among children. Some of these myths were believed to be true in the past. Others are clinical lore that has been passed from one teacher, clinician or physician to another.

Myth 1: When a student looks good, they are fully recovered.

Fact: The better a student looks, the harder it is to recognize their learning and cognitive needs. This is common because physical recovery typically comes before cognitive recovery and happens at a faster rate. Often students are misidentified as having attention or learning problems after their physical injuries have healed.

Myth 2: A mild brain injury (concussion) is mild and less damaging than other brain injuries.

Fact: Although about 90% of people who have concussions recover, this is not the case for everyone. Concussion, whiplash and other "mild" brain injuries can have long lasting, debilitating effects that need intervention.

Myth 3: Younger children heal better - a young brain can heal itself, or the part that may have been damaged isn't developed yet.

Fact: A younger brain is more vulnerable to damage because undeveloped portions mature from the previously damaged areas; this makes future development difficult to predict.

Myth 4: A student who tests in the normal range can learn new material well.

Fact: Evaluations often test previously learned information, not how a student learns new information. A better prediction of a student's ability to learn new information is to teach new information and then test for understanding. Also consider the student's ability to screen out noise and motion, which are constants in most classrooms.

Myth 5: Recovery will take about a year.

Fact: When a child has a brain injury, the concept of recovery may be misleading. Recovery typically means someone has lost abilities temporarily and will regain them such as a broken arm. For a person with a brain injury, although they may look the same the changes are most likely long-lasting and adjustment is an ongoing process.

Myth 6: How quickly a child recovers from a brain injury depends mainly on how hard they work at recovering.

Fact: No two children with brain injuries are alike and recovery varies widely between children with similar injuries. It is unfair to a student to make predictions or judgments about their progress.

Myth 7: If the brain injury were really life changing, the student would have been in the hospital for a long time.

Fact: Some children with serious brain injuries do not have the same choices available to them that adults do for rehabilitation programs. School is where most children get rehabilitation after a brain injury.

"Kay T, Lezak M. (1990). The Nature of Head Injury. In D.W. Cothell , ed. Traumatic Brain Injury and Vocational Rehabilitation. (21-65). Monomonie, WI The Research and Training Center, University of Wisconsin-Stout,

Wedel Sellars, C. and Hill Vegter, C. (2008). The Young Child: Myths and Facts about Brain Injury. (2nd Ed.). Lash Associates."

Adapted from:

Kay T Lezak M. (1990). The Nature of Head Injury. In D.W. Cothell , ed.Traumatic Brain Injury and Vocational Rehabilitation.(21-65). Monomonie, WI: The Research and Training Center, University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Wedel Sellars, C. and Hill Vegter, C. (2008).The Young Child: Myths and Facts about Brain Injury.(2nd Ed.). Lash Associates.