Jennie Ponsford





Jennie Ponsford, BA (Hons, MA (Clin Neuropsych), PhD, is Professor of Neuropsychology and Director of Clinical Programs in the School of Psychological Sciences at Monash University and Director of the Monash-Epworth Rehabilitation Research Centre at Epworth Hospital in Melbourne, Australia.  She has conducted clinical work and research into longitudinal outcomes and rehabilitation following traumatic brain injury over 35 years, publishing two books and over 240 journal articles.  She is Past-President of the International Neuropsychological Society and serves on the governing boards of the International Brain Injury Association, World Federation of NeuroRehabilitation and Australasian Society for the Study of Brain Impairment. In 2013 she was awarded the Robert l. Moody Prize for Distinguished Initiatives in Brain Injury Rehabilitation and in 2015 she was awarded the International Neuropsychological Society’s Paul Satz Career Mentoring award.


Conference Presentation

Plenary Keynote: Promoting Wellbeing in Children, Young People and Their Families After Brain Injury

Sustaining a brain injury can have devastating consequences for a child or young person. The physical, cognitive and behavioural changes associated with such injuries may impede the development of vital life skills including the capacity for physical independence, academic learning, vocational skills and social and personal relationships. This failure to achieve important developmental goals may ultimately lead to significant social isolation and psychological distress. Recent studies have highlighted that these negative outcomes are by no means universal, however. They are dependent on the severity of injury and associated impairments.

Other factors may also exert a profound impact on the outcomes for the child or young person with a brain injury, however. These include the child’s developmental and psychiatric history, the nature of family and other forms of social support and access to rehabilitation. The influence of these factors, particularly the profound impact of family on childrens’ wellbeing, will be highlighted through case studies charting the journey of several children from the time of injury through to adulthood.

Ways in which wellbeing can be promoted in children and young people with a brain injury and their families, and negative consequences mitigated, will be discussed, including individual therapy, and structured groups providing support and skills-training in person or online. A major goal in promoting well-being in children with brain injury and their families is the fostering of opportunities to interact socially and feel accepted and understood. Heads Together is a recreational camp programme for children and adolescents with brain injury and their families. aiming to foster healthy family function in families in which a child has a brain injury. Families can attend multiple camps, which are staffed by volunteers, and offer recreation, outdoor adventure activities and relaxation activities completed either as a family, or in peer groups. The camps create opportunities for new friendships, sharing of experiences of brain injury with other families, rebuilding of individual and family identity, and becoming part of a supportive community. The values of respect, acceptance, generosity and courage are reinforced. Many families have attended the camp repeatedly over years and the siblings and children with brain injury have subsequently become volunteers in the programme. The experience of this programme by parents, siblings and the child with a brain injury will be explored. There remains much to be done in creating an evidence base and more widely accessible services to promote well-being in children with a brain injury and their families.  


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