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Did Your Newborn Suffer Cerebral
Palsy or Another Brain Injury Before
or During Labor and Delivery?

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Our Birth Brain Injury Resource Guide

the guide

Get a FREE guide of resources available throughout Ohio to children and families of children who were born with brain injuries.

Our guide can help you build a foundation of knowledge and tools that will help you help your child
now and in the future.

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Attention and brain injury

Attention helps a child focus on important tasks and sustain concentration over lengths of time. Children should grow to maintain focus for longer periods of time as they get older. But sometimes, after a birth brain injury (BI), a child’s attentiveness abilities are disrupted.

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Attention lets us select what to focus on and what is important. Concentration lets us sustain that attention over time. An infant or toddler with BI may have difficulty in these areas. These problems can be formally diagnosed by a neuropsychologist who can initiate a unique plan for your child.

BI causes damage to the brain that can cause problems like mood swings, impulsivity, forgetfulness, and poor focus. The long-term effects on a child’s attentiveness and focus look staggeringly similar to disabilities like Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The problems that manifest themselves in both ADHD and BI are hard to distinguish, and some psychologists have suggested there might be a link between the two disorders.

Elk & Elk

What is Attention?

Attention is when someone concentrates or focuses on one thing. We employ our concentration skills daily without even noticing. A child’s attentiveness varies based on age, gender, and interest. Children’s attention spans tend to lengthen as they get older. An average three-year-old can focus for longer than most 18-month-olds. Toddlers can focus better on things that interest them. For example, they may sit and play with a favorite toy, engage in peek-a-boo, or put objects in a box over and over again.

Difficulties with Attention

An infant or toddler who suffers from BI may have delays or difficulties in attention development. Young children with BI may show signs of poor concentration. Bear in mind what is age-appropriate for your child. Toddlers may only be capable of a few minutes of focus at a time. Concerned parents should document any attention difficulties and discuss them with the child’s pediatrician.

Is your child:

  • Unable to focus in busy surroundings
  • Easily distracted
  • Easily overstimulated
  • Restless and fidgety—unable to stay still

Does your child have difficulty:

  • Following directions
  • Finding information on a cluttered page
  • Copying or mimicking activities

Helpful Strategies

If your toddler struggles with attention difficulties, try scheduling any important or demanding activities early in the day or right after nap-time when he or she is well rested.

  • Keep activities short with clear beginnings and endings
  • The child needs breaks and tasks that let them move around
  • Alternate between events that require mental focus and ones that require physical activity
  • Keep instructions brief—one or two steps at a time.
  • Provide visual cues like pictures of what you will do today
  • Stick to a routine, so the child knows what to expect


A doctor can formally identify and diagnose concentration difficulties. Children with suspected difficulties will can have a neuropsychological evaluation. Based on the results, the neuropsychologist can come up with methods and strategies to manage attention problems.


Research has shown that 7 percent of people who have had a BI also meet the criteria for ADHD. Psychologists theorize that this might be due to the similarity in symptoms. However, others argue that ADHD is purely a developmental disorder that is a result of biological and environmental influences and not from any sort of trauma. If you take your child to a doctor for ADHD related problems, make sure there is a complete evaluation including medical history and cognitive testing.