The effects of stroke are different for every child. The impact of the stroke depends on the part of the brain affected and the size of the damaged area.
The information on this page can be accessed in the following formats:
- Download our childhood stroke guide as a PDF or large print Word document.
- Order a printed copy from our shop.
- To request a braille copy, email email@example.com.
Common effects of childhood stroke
The most common effects include:
The effects of a stroke in a baby or very young child may emerge over time. A stroke can affect developmental stages like learning to walk and talk, and sometimes a stroke is only diagnosed when a child shows a developmental delay.
Usually, the fastest recovery happens in the early weeks and months following a stroke, but can continue for months or years after a stroke. It takes time and hard work, and rehabilitation therapies are crucial.
Some children will be able to leave hospital quickly, but others will need to stay in for some time. When your child is leaving hospital, you should have help from the hospital paediatric team. There may be a portage service in your area that you can access which can help babies and young children.
Portage is a pre-school service with some services offering support to families from birth and some supporting through to statutory schooling.
Rehabilitation and recovery
Once your child is well enough, rehabilitation should begin. The recovery and progress each child makes is unique to them, and they should have support to enable them to make the best recovery possible.
Rehabilitation also helps children to learn and develop in the years after a stroke. Rehabilitation may take place in hospital, community, home and school settings.
A physiotherapist can help with movement problems such as weakness and balance problems. The therapist will assess and design a programme to improve muscle strength and movement.
They might use equipment to help your child move more easily, like an ankle foot orthosis (a brace to support the ankle) and hand splints.
Encourage your child to use their affected limbs as much as possible to help recover movement. Repeating therapeutic exercises and activities can make a big difference.
Spasticity affects some children after a stroke. This means that the muscles, often in the arm or lower leg, go into spasm. This can be painful, and may cause problems with walking and using the hand and arm. Physiotherapy and medication such as baclofen can help.
Children can also have botulinum toxin type A injections prescribed by a paediatric consultant. See our guide ‘Physical effects of stroke’ for more information.
Occupational therapists look at ways to help make everyday tasks such as tying shoelaces, getting dressed, washing and eating. The therapist might suggest aids and adaptations to make some tasks easier. A therapist can also give support with adapting school activities to support learning. They can help the child develop strategies to improve concentration and processing information.
A speech and language therapist (SLT) can help by assessing your child, and designing a programme to improve strengths and weaknesses in communication. If your child has severe speech problems other modes of communication such as signing can be used. There are communication devices to assist with speech, which an SLT can advise you about. Speech and language therapists also support children with eating and drinking if they have swallowing difficulties. They can advise on ways to eat and drink safely and exercises to improve swallowing.
Resources for you
You may find our questions to ask form useful when meeting with therapy staff.
You may also find it helpful to look at the toolkit that's been developed for education and childcare professionals supporting children and young people affected by stroke.