March is Brain Injury Awareness Month
by Elise Grossman, CRC, LMHC, RDPFS Board Member
Each year the month of March is recognized as Brain Injury Month to increase awareness and understanding about the incidence of brain injuries. This is an appropriate time to draw attention to the link between vision loss and brain injuries. Many studies in medical journals support this relationship. As a service provider for more than 30 years specializing in brain injury, followed by working with clients with vision loss, I can corroborate a strong connection between the two. First, what is a brain injury? A brain injury is damage to the brain that can affect a person physically, cognitively, behaviorally, emotionally, and visually. It can occur from an external event such as motor vehicle accident, falls, gunshot wounds, Shaken Baby Syndrome, etc., or from internal factors such as stroke, meningitis, drug overdose, and other issues. The Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association (NORA) reports a high incidence of vision dysfunction in brain injury clients, including blurred vision, sensitivity to light, reduction or loss of visual field, reading difficulties, eye movement dysfunction, and cortical vision impairment. Combine this with cognitive deficits such as memory, attention, concentration, information processing, reasoning, and other losses and rehabilitation becomes challenging for both the client and service provider, especially if the provider does not have the client’s complete medical history. As a bit of advice to those who are professionals in the BVI (Blind and Visually Impaired) community, please ask your clients if they have ever had a brain injury, or use the simple five-question HELPS screening tool available from the National Association of State Head Injury Administrators (NASHIA). You’ll be surprised at how many clients report having a history of brain injury. This information may lead to a more helpful, realistic rehabilitation plan. For further information on brain injury, including treatment, visit the website of the Brain Injury Association of America. To learn more about brain injury and vision, check out the Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association (NORA).