Woman teaching a child

Understanding Brain Injury

“How do you get brain-injured, how is it possible? What happens after that instant of conception to hurt a good brain? There may be a thousand things but the penultimate thing, the next to last thing that happens, is not enough oxygen to the brain. Almost regardless of how the path begins which will end in a brain injury, the next to last thing that happens is not enough oxygen to the brain.” 


Glenn Doman

The Symptoms of Brain Injury

When the brain is injured there may be dozens of symptoms of that injury. This makes sense because the brain runs everything. When the brain is disorganized, this may result in symptoms that range from frightening (seizures, rigidity, serious illness, failure to thrive) to bizarre (screaming, repetitive actions, biting, smelling, and tasting inappropriately) to a hundred other symptoms that may seem odd, funny or simply inexplicable.

Many brain-injured children are given a diagnosis based upon these frightening or bizarre symptoms rather than a diagnosis based upon a careful evaluation of the brain. A symptomatic diagnosis can lead to the attempt to treat the symptom while ignoring the underlying problem that resides in the brain itself.

No matter how strange or hard to fathom a symptom may be, there is always a reason for that symptom. Once parents know how to evaluate their own child and they understand their child’s Developmental Profile, many of these inexplicable symptoms make sense. When the brain is provided with appropriate stimulation and opportunity, these symptoms start to lessen or even disappear.

Happy children

What Is Brain Injury?

When the brain is injured, the child will either have a problem with the incoming sensory pathways or the outgoing motor pathways or both. When a child cannot see, hear or feel properly, he cannot respond to the world around him appropriately. This may be a severe problem, as it is with the child who is functionally blind, deaf, insensate, paralyzed, and speechless.

This may be a moderate problem, as it is with a child who can not use both eyes together properly, lacks the fine-tuning to handle the common sounds in the environment, or is too sensitive or not sensitive enough to touch and may not yet be able to move or talk or use his hands at age level.

This may be a mild problem, as it is with a child who cannot read, write or do math at age level and who may lack the balance, coordination, language, and manual competence of his peers.

Girl special child
Happy family

The Brain
Grows By Use

Whether a child is blind and deaf and paralyzed or hyperactive with poor attention, interest, and concentration, the solution is to treat the brain, not the symptoms. Treatment of the brain must be directed at the brain, not the periphery, and not at the symptoms that the injury may cause. Our program is directed at the brain. The brain literally grows by use. Brain growth depends upon stimulation and opportunity. When the sensory pathways are provided with appropriate stimulation, those pathways grow. When the motor pathways are provided with enhanced opportunity, those pathways also grow. The child becomes more capable.

Misconceptions About the Brain

For too long brain growth was thought to be a static and irrevocable fact. Instead, brain growth and development are a dynamic and ever-changing process.

For more than a half-century, the heart of The Institutes program has been based upon the fact that the brain grows by use. Scientists now recognize the plasticity of the human brain and new research in neuroplasticity confirms that the brain is incredibly capable of recovery and rehabilitation. The old notion that once the brain is injured there is no means of recovery has been discarded.

This is a process that can be stopped, as it is in profound brain injury. This is a process that can be slowed, as it is in moderate brain injury but most significantly this is a process that can be speeded up.

All that we do to speed the process is to provide visual, auditory, and tactile stimulation with increased frequency, intensity, and duration in recognition of the orderly way in which the human brain grows. We then arrange for the child to have the maximum opportunity in an ideal environment to use and develop the motor pathways.

Glenn Doman holding a brain

The Causes of Brain Injury

It matters not what may be the initial insult that begins the process of injury to the brain; the penultimate fact will be a decrease of oxygen to the brain. Oxygen is the primary food of the brain. If oxygen is cut off or decreased for any reason, the brain will suffer.

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Injuries In Utero

We see the child who is hurt in utero because of some injury or illness that mother may have experienced as the baby was developing (trauma, Rh incompatibility, German measles, hydrocephaly, drugs, alcohol). Sometimes mother is aware of an injury or illness, but often problems may occur in the first nine months that are not apparent to mother or her physician (hydrocephaly, oxygen deprivation).

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Neonatal Injuries

Sometimes an injury may occur immediately before delivery (premature, postmature), during delivery (compression of the umbilical cord, placenta previa, placenta abruptia, prolonged, precipitous, or delayed, C-section), or right after the delivery (respiratory distress, jaundice, cardiac arrest, stroke) of the baby.

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Genetic Injuries

Some genetic problems cause injury to the brain (Down syndrome, Angleman syndrome, Cri de Chat, Wolf-Hirchhorn, Miller-Dieker syndrome, Pallister-Killian syndrome, Dandy-Walker syndrome, etc). The Institutes does not treat genetic problems, but children who have such problems are also brain-injured. They have the same chance of improvement that other hurt children have. For many of these children their neurological problems are more significant than their genetic differences.

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Traumatic Injury

A traumatic brain injury is sustained after birth, often due to an accident. Such injuries include blows to the head, lack of oxygen from suffocation, smoke inhalation or near drowning, hemorrhages, brain tumors, infections and penetrating wounds.

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Physiological Brain Injuries

Other children may have excess fluid in the brain (hydrocephaly), a brain tumor or a blood clot (hematoma) or craniostenosis. These conditions require neurosurgical intervention. Commonly these conditions will be handled before a child is seen at The Institutes. If these conditions have not yet been discovered, or diagnosed, before a child comes to The Institutes, such intervention will be recommended.

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Brain Deterioration

Sometimes a child may have a progressive deterioration of the brain. The Institutes does not have a treatment program for progressive brain disease. The case of each of these children is reviewed with great care to determine if The Institutes can offer help to improve the quality of the child’s life.

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Injuries Related to Illness

Some children may have an illness (encephalitis, meningitis, Lyme disease, chicken pox, measles), surgical complications (cardiac arrest, oxygen deprivation, blood loss, septic shock), reaction to medication (antibiotics, vaccines, anticonvulsants, aspirin, non steroidal anti-inflammatories), or an adult illness (stroke, Parkinson’s disease) that injures the brain.

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Peripheral Nervous System Injuries

Some children may have diseases that do not originate in the central nervous system but instead originate in the peripheral nervous system (spinal cord injuries, polio, muscular dystrophy). The programs of The Institutes cannot help children with these problems.