Spinal Injury Support for Children and Young People

Children and young people under the age of 18 make up around 3% of the population annually who sustain a spinal cord injury.

Specialist spinal cord injury lawyer, Raquel Siganporia, became paralysed aged 11 in 1993 following a negligent scoliosis procedure. Raquel fully appreciates the importance and benefits of tailored support to people who become paralysed as a child and young adult.

Bolt Burdon Kemp is therefore delighted to be able to work with the Back Up Trust, a spinal injury charity which seeks to support children and young adults when they become paralysed.

Back Up Trust services and support for children and young people

Under 18s who sustain a spinal cord injury will have the same physical injuries that affect adults, such as:

  • An inability to walk
  • Bowel and bladder dysfunction
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Issue with pain and pain management
  • Pressure sores

However, in order for children and young people to successfully adapt to their injury, they require specialist rehabilitation and support tailored to their age and level of injury.

The immediate needs and concerns for a person under 18 are likely to differ to adults. Support for the family and siblings of someone who is injured is vital to ensuring a young person is able to rehabilitate to their maximum potential.

We work hard to ensure that both the family and the individual affected are fully supported through our relationship with the Back Up Trust.

Services and funding for under 18s also differs and many families affected have to get to grips with the various issues that affect a loved one who is continuing to develop both physically and emotionally. The physical and emotional wellbeing of a child or young adult may not stabilise until early adulthood and support to help with the ongoing changes is vital.

Wheelchair skills and activity courses for under 18s

The Back Up Trust and Bolt Burdon Kemp believe children and young adults are capable of adapting to their injury and able to lead fulfilling independent lives with the right support and skills.

One of the early skills a child or young adult will need to develop to help them regain their independence is learning how to use and move a wheelchair. At Bolt Burdon Kemp, we are committed to providing support to the Back Up Trust to enable the charity to deliver their under 18s wheelchair skills courses.

This video shows newly injured children and young people learning how to use a wheelchair and develop the skills needed to move around independently. The courses are run in the spinal injury centres and the trainers are young people under the age of 18 who have sustained a spinal cord injury themselves.

We are immensely proud of the difference the young trainers make to other people’s lives and commend their commitment and achievements.

Once a child or young person has mastered how to use a wheelchair, they can use the skills acquired on a Back Up Trust activity course. These courses are a great way for someone to put into practice the advanced skills they have acquired, but perhaps more importantly, provide a boost in confidence. The individual is able to see that there is life after a spinal cord injury and, with the right level of support, anything is possible.

Wheelchair provision

Being able to move around in a wheelchair is simply the first step. It is important that the wheelchair being used is suited to the child or young person’s needs. This can be a real difficulty encountered by families.

For example, as a child develops they may need more frequent changes to their wheelchair compared with an adult, to suit their changing physical needs.

With huge pressures on the NHS, ensuring timely provision of a wheelchair before the physical need changes again, can impede someone’s ability to regain their independence.

If a child or young person is successful with a claim and able to obtain funding to help their rehabilitation, we ensure the provision of a suitable wheelchair is assessed as a priority.

Education

Ensuring education continues in an environment that has been fully appraised of the young person’s new needs can make a huge difference to the overall outcome for that individual when they become an adult and lead a fully independent life.

The Back Up Trust has put together an ‘education toolkit’ for children and young people. This toolkit is a comprehensive resource which aims to make introducing a child or young person with a spinal cord injury back into school life less intimidating.

The toolkit includes advice and practical tips from a range of professionals, young people, and family members. It includes case studies and testimonies to provide those affected with a better understanding of:

  • What inclusive education is
  • How to prepare for inclusive education
  • The practice of inclusive education (including advice on P.E., trips, transport, emotional support, and types of support)
  • What young people say
  • The experiences of family members

There is also information about legal duties and responsibilities, as well as what a spinal cord injury is and how this can affect people.

Learning how to drive aged 16

At the age of 16, young people with a disability, such as a spinal cord injury, are able to learn how to drive a car and obtain a driving licence. Providing an individual with this level of independence can be daunting for their loved ones but highly enabling for the person affected.

Read Raquel’s experience of learning how to drive aged 16 here.

Living independently

As a child becomes a young adult, they will naturally wish to be more independent and eventually leave their family home.

It is vitally important to provide them with information so that they know what is possible (nearly anything) but also, crucially, have the skills to plan and organise for their needs, instead of relying on their parents or loved ones to look after them..

Long term effects of spinal cord injury on a child and young person

There are then the long term effects of sustaining a spinal cord injury at a young age. People who sustain a spinal cord injury are now living longer than ever; the impact of their spinal cord injury into later life is still relatively unknown territory for many treating healthcare professionals.

Young people’s care pathway

Fortunately, the number of children and young people sustaining a spinal cord injury is relatively low. The difficulty is that this means that the specialist understanding is not there compared to the amount of information provided for adults on managing and treating a spinal cord injury.

Children and young adults have their own unique set of challenges. Specialist support and understanding, both within the healthcare setting and when bringing a legal claim, is crucial to ensuring someone affected has all their needs met as far as possible.

Developing healthcare policies and care pathways is one step to ensuring the needs of children and young people are taken into account and fully considered. Bolt Burdon Kemp has been working with the Back Up Trust and policy makers to feedback Raquel’s experiences of becoming injured at a young age into national spinal cord injury care pathways.

The young person’s guide to life after spinal cord injury

Click here to access the Back Up Trust’s ‘The young person’s guide to life after spinal cord injury’. The PDF details the Back Up Trust’s services for children and young people.

If you or a member of your family has suffered a spinal injury as a result of an accident or substandard medical treatment, our specialist spinal injury solicitors can assist you in bringing a compensation claim against the people and/or organisations responsible.

Please contact our specialist spinal injury team on 0203 6279 929 or complete our online spinal injury enquiry form.

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