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:

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 is often focused on what is important to you and your child, and it works towards what they would like to be better at. 

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, like an ankle foot orthosis (a brace to support the ankle), which may help with stability.

It is important to 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. Try to make these part of fun family activities to encourage your child to keep doing them.

Spasticity affects some children after a stroke. This means that the muscles, often in the arm or lower leg, go into spasm or have increased tone (tension). This can be painful and may cause problems with walking and using the hand and arm. Physiotherapy and medication such as baclofen, a muscle relaxant, can help.

Along with physiotherapy, children with spasticity may also have botulinum toxin type A injections prescribed by a consultant with expertise in this area. See our Physical Effects of Stroke pages for more information.

Occupational therapists help children to increase their participation and independence in everyday tasks, such as tying shoelaces, getting dressed, washing, eating and playing. The therapist might suggest aids and adaptations to make some tasks easier.

A therapist can also support with adapting school activities to help with learning and enable school staff to better support the child. They can help the child develop strategies to improve concentration and process information.

A speech and language therapist (SLT) can help by assessing your child and designing a programme to improve their communication skills. If your child has severe speech problems, other modes of communication, such as signing or using communication devices, can be used.

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 to develop eating and drinking skills. Other professionals may also be involved in helping your child, for example, a dietitian.

A psychologist, such as a clinical, educational, or neuropsychologist, may be involved with supporting your child.

Psychologists can assess emotional problems and offer treatments, especially if a child’s behavior is affecting home or school life. Talking therapies may help your child understand why they feel the way they do.

They can also provide help with cognitive problems, such as with memory, thinking, and concentration. They can assess your child’s cognitive ability and make recommendations for supporting them at home and at school.

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.

Find out more

About childhood stroke
Diagnosing and treating childhood stroke
Returning to school after stroke
Useful tips for you and your family