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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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Environmental barriers

nfants who have suffered brain injury at birth can face many obstacles in their day to day lives, as they may have physical and cognitive difficulties that stem from their disabilities.

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Quite frequently, infants encounter environmental barriers that hinder them from participating fully in some aspects of life. Children with BI have more limitations placed on their participation than their non-disabled peers. Many of these restrictions may come from environmental factors outside the child. A study published in Developmental Neurorehabilitation suggested that children without disability experience higher participation due, in part, to lower environmental barriers than children with disabilities.

Five Factors

The World Health Organization (WHO) describes environmental factors as things that constitute the social, physical, and attitudinal environment where people live. Some of these factors may or may not be a barrier to every child with BI. Some aspects of the environment might be assistive; whereas, others make it harder for toddlers with BI to lead full lives. Keep in mind, assistive strategies and coping skills can help children overcome many environmental barriers. The WHO details 5 categories of environmental factors that impact participation. The 5 factors are products and technology, natural and human-made changes, support and relationships, attitudes of others, and services, systems and policies.

Elk & Elk

1. Products and Technology

This category can include all equipment, technologies, or other manufactured products that are in the child’s environment. This refers to daily living items like food, clothes, furniture. Products and technology include tablets, phones, computers—even those used for assistive purposes. Transportation is also a factor—think about cars, busses, trains, airplane. This classification also extends to large structures like buildings and playground.

2. Natural and Human-Made Changes

Natural and human-made changes to the environment include living and non-living things of the physical world along with natural components that have been altered by humans. The weather can be a barrier when it comes to various amounts wind, rain, and sunlight. There are also human-made factors like air pollution.

3. Support and Relationships

This category addresses the people around your child as an environmental factor. Everyone you see or have contact with is part of the environment. From parents to peers, from siblings to caregivers—they all have an impact. Think about all the different health care providers. Even the strangers are an environmental factor.

4. Attitudes of Others

The attitudes of parents, teachers, doctors, and friends all play a big role in your child’s environment. A positive or negative attitude can have a huge impact on how a toddler feels about themselves and their abilities.

5. Service, Systems, and Policy

Special services, like in schools and daycares, can provide benefits that help meet the student’s special needs. Systems refer to established organizations like schools, governments, and structures programs that affect society. Policies are the rules and regulations set within a system.

Effects on Children with BI

All of these factors can be considered good parts of our lives. However, some are burdensome to toddlers with BI. Consider how the daily living environment in your home affects your child.

Consider the brightness of the lights or the arrangement of the furniture. Are things like clothes and toys accessible to provide the highest level of independence as possible? Some children with BI experience light sensitivity. Parents may have to adjust the brightness settings on screens—computers, tablets, televisions, etc.

Relationships, like with parents and caregivers can be very supportive. However, other relationships can also be barriers, making it more difficult for toddlers with disabilities to participate. This might go as far as being bullied by peers, treated differently by teachers, or simply not invited to participate in the same activities.

Special services are a way to help overcome environmental barriers. Services can be public or private, and they are designed to meet the individual needs. Certain federal and state laws are designed to help individuals with disabilities.