The Neuroscience and Neuropsychology of Social Impairment After Child Acquired Brain Injury


Vicki Anderson


Miriam Beauchamp
Keith Yeates


Social skills and interactions form the foundation of human consciousness. They emerge gradually through childhood and adolescence, through a dynamic interplay between the individual and his or her environment. They are central to the child’s capacity to develop and sustain lasting relationships and participate and function within the community.

With the recent burgeoning of the social neurosciences there is emerging evidence that a number of social domains are affected by brain disruption and can impact more broadly on the child’s capacity to adapt to their environment, establish rewarding friendships and relationships, and perform in school settings. The psychological and biological bases, and developmental pathways of social skills remain poorly defined. The impact of disruption, as a result of brain insult or environmental influences, is even less well understood, but is likely to have dramatic effects as these skills are developing and emerging during childhood and adolescence, resulting in psychological distress, social isolation, and reduced self-esteem.

Given the importance of social skills for children's day top day function and quality of life, it is critical that assessment models incorporate evaluation of these skills. To date, such evaluation has been mostly limited to qualitative observation or parent and teacher report, with little emphasis on the child's perspective or direct assessment methods.

This symposium will i) propose a model of social function which incorporates biological, psychological and environmental parameters; ii) discuss its relevance to research data from our longitudinal research programs investigating the impact of early childhood brain insult; iii) describe cognitive abilities underpinning social skills; and (iv) consider robust approaches to assessment of social skills and v) explore options for intervention.


Learning Objectives:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of social skills and their development, as well as the biological and environmental factors that influence them.
  2. Be familiar with current research evidence describing common social impairment associated with acquired brain injury in childhood.
  3. Apply current knowledge of social assessment methods and interventions to their clinical practice.