Effects on learning and school life

The acquired brain injury (ABI) resulted from encephalitis may have a significant impact on a child’s learning and school life, with the child no longer performing and behaving as before the illness.

The child may experience:

  •  tiredness (cognitive fatigue rather than physical fatigue)
  • problems with concentration especially in a noisy classroom
  • difficulty working at speed
  • difficulty following instructions
  • difficulty changing tasks
  • difficulty refocusing on a new issue
  • poor memory
  • sensitivity to sound
  • difficulty remembering places and directions
  • seizures
  • inappropriate behaviour
  • lack of insight into their difficulties
  • not being able to get ready for specific activities
  • making misjudgements
  • difficulty changing routines
  • not understanding jokes
  • forgetting what they were doing
  • physical restlessness
  • disruptiveness
  • appearing to be daydreaming
  • poor social awareness

Difficulties after encephalitis can lead to isolation, as others do not understand the cause of the child’s changed ability and behaviour. The child’s confidence diminishes. They may become anxious and withdrawn or they may exhibit challenging behaviour. If the child had any learning difficulties prior to encephalitis, these may become greater as a result of the illness and the child’s special educational needs may increase.

A child may return to school and continue learning, but not as before. This will be well understood by staff who have known the child before the illness, but over the years to come, the child may move on to be taught where there is no such personal knowledge and understanding. Moving from primary to secondary school is daunting for many children (new environment, new teachers, new colleagues), but for children with ABI this could be very challenging indeed (higher demands, more responsibilities, some of the effects of ABI just starting to become apparent).

Children’s brains develop throughout infancy, childhood and adolescence. Some areas are fully developed and functional at an early age (e.g. the occipital lobes responsible for seeing) whilst other areas (e.g. frontal lobes associated with planning and other executive functions) continue to develop well into adolescence and early adulthood. Damage to fully developed areas of the brain may be immediately apparent through loss or impairment of former skills. The effects of damage to parts of the brain yet to be developed fully may not be apparent for some
time after injury. This explains the emergence of difficulties with behaviour or subtle cognitive skills later in the child’s development, perhaps years later after an injury.

It is important to recognise the impact over time of acquired brain injury and to plan accordingly.

For more information on the effects of encephalitis on learning and school life and what can you do to help, please download a copy of the Encephalitis in children. A guide which has a dedicated section to this matter.

We also have produced a guide for teachers on returning to school after encephalitis. If your child has been left with difficulties after encephalitis make sure their school has a copy of this guidance.

Download a copy of the full guidanceReturning to school after encephalitis. Guidance for school staff or a summary of this guidanceReturning to school after encephalitis. Guidance for school staff. A Summary

If you would like a paper copy of any of these books please contact our Support Service on or +44(0)1653 699599

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Page Created: 22 November 2023
Last Modified: 22 November 2023
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