July 2016 archive

Does a Language Barrier Prevent Proper Care for Brain Injuries?

language barrier

When you or someone you love suffers from a traumatic brain injury, it can be a scary experience that can often become complicated and difficult to understand. Now imagine if your native language prevents you from understanding or receiving the care you or your loved one needs to recover from a life changing injury? A new study out of the University of Washington reveals that children from families, where English is not their first language or have a limited understanding of English, are less likely to get the important rehabilitative care they need after suffering from a TBI.


The Study

The University of Washington conducted a study, surveying almost 300 various health care providers, throughout the state of Washington, who specialize in physical/occupational therapy, speech, language, cognitive therapy, and mental health services; all of these services are important for brain injury rehabilitation. Research results revealed that less than 20% of health care providers provide language interpretation to non-English speaking children, who have suffered a TBI, and their families and only 8% provide mental health services to children with a TBI. Additionally, only 46% of providers accepted children with Medicaid, which resulted in fewer rehabilitation services than patients who are covered by private insurance.

Sadly, due to the language barrier and the inability to receive private insurance, many children who suffer brain injuries may never receive proper and crucial care they need, particularly when their brains are still developing.


Children and Brain Injuries

Children ages 0 to 4 and 15 to 19 are at greatest risk of suffering a traumatic brain injury and youth brain injuries are much different than those of adults. It is often assumed that children “bounce back” faster from a brain injury or are not affected as severely as an adult, however, a child’s brain injury is often more devastating to a developing brain. Additionally, certain impairments, such as cognitive, may not be easily identified or even present immediately after a TBI occurs. As a result, many children suffer from delayed effects and face challenges for a lifetime, requiring long term rehabilitative care. Children may also have a difficult time expressing how he or she feels or accurately describe any challenges he or she may be having with judgement, reasoning, or processing information.

Now, consider a child (and his or her parents), who does not speak the same language as his or her doctor. Not only is there the possibility of a delay in getting immediate treatment, but he or she may continue to struggle as he or she gets older, particularly if crucial services are not available.


Bridging the Gap

Although it may be baffling as to why children, regardless of their economic status or language, are not receiving the care they need, a solution needs to bridge the gap in adequate health care. Since a significant amount of care that a child may need after a brain injury happens outside of the hospital, medical health care professionals are responsible in helping families make the right connections in their community, regardless of their financial status or first language.