ASU PROFESSOR JOINS FORCES WITH BRAIN INJURY ALLIANCE OF ARIZONA TO HELP FOSTER CHILDREN WITH TRAUMA
Dr. Bridget Seeley’s mission is clear to everyone on the Arizona State University campus or around the Valley: She is passionate about helping children in the foster care system, especially those impacted by brain injury.
The Valley professional is a Senior Lecturer at Arizona State University’s Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics where she teaches Parenting, Marriage and Family Relationships coursework. She was also a natural choice for the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona’s 2020 Advisory Council roster.
The Council will be chaired in the new year by Dr. David Adelson of Phoenix Children’s Hospital. “Dr. Seeley brings a critical viewpoint and systems knowledge,” stated Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona Executive Director Carrie Collins-Fadell.
Fadell commented that the 37-year-old organization is gearing up to address systems change when it comes to brain injury prevention, identification and treatment for youth engaged in the foster care system. “We would love to have the expertise and technical knowledge to address this from a variety of approaches, including legislative, research and empowering current students to choose pediatric neuro careers.”
Beyond her technical expertise, Dr. Seeley brings personal experience to the table as well. As a longtime child welfare advocate, she and her husband have opened their home to several foster children, some of whom who have sustained a brain injury or experienced psychological trauma. One such young man, Isaiah, became a permanent part of their family, leaving her with even more resolve to assist children with brain injury so they can not only survive, but thrive.
Dr. Seeley adopted Isaiah when he was eight years old. Because there are more children in need of foster care than there are available foster homes, Isaiah had been in the care of a group home instead of residing with foster parents. Prior to his arrival at the home, he sustained severe abuse and neglect at the hands of those who should have provided him with love and care. Isaiah’s tiny body and developing brain had experienced many traumas, including being physically abused. Sadly, there were indications he had been thrown head-first against a wall.
Isaiah had a rough start, including his entrance into the world. He was born prematurely at 28 weeks, weighing in at only 2 lbs. 9 oz. with a hole in his neck. Because of the hole, even normal caregiving tasks like bathing were quite difficult. While he grew and flourished in the structure and care of the Seeley home, some of his cognitive challenges, such as impaired vision from his early head injuries were apparent.
“Trauma in childhood can take many forms,” Fadell commented. “Just the very act of a child being removed from their home, even if it is not meeting needs, can be traumatizing. Then when you add perhaps food insecurity, physical or sexual abuse, death of a caregiver, it can really start to impact brain function and be a barrier to future success if not addressed.”
Dr. Seeley describes childhood trauma as a spectrum that can vary. Even when severe, for Isaiah and others who have experienced trauma, there is reason to feel hopeful. “Fortunately, the brain is malleable, new pathways and connections can be formed,” Dr. Seeley explained. “When coupled with the correct medical care, things like mindfulness, meditation and music therapy can work wonders.”
She cites Isaiah’s (now 12) developmental success and higher IQ, due in large part to music through piano lessons as well as tutoring. For some who have experienced a possible brain injury, it can be difficult to know where to start. She feels the key to getting the correct treatment often starts with the correct diagnosis. “Too often, brain injury is misdiagnosed as ADHD, autism, Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD), or not addressed at all. I know the Brain Injury Alliance offers complimentary support to all families with questions about a known or suspected brain injury. They offer everything for referrals to specialists to assistance to families dealing with the emotional and social impact of growing up with a brain injury.”
Dr. Seeley wants to reinforce the reality of foster children’s trauma as brain injury, as well as letting people know about available resources. She feels there is room to provide parental awareness on the symptoms and signs of brain injury because it can be so difficult to diagnose, as well as education and prevention.
She is extremely optimistic about achieving that awareness. “The Brain Injury Alliance has made tremendous inroads reaching those in need, as well as their families and caregivers. With the proper partnerships and community support, they can extend that understanding and assistance to foster children and all of those seeking to support and help them.”
Dr. Seeley urges Arizona foster and adoptive parents to consider the Brain Injury Alliance as a go-to resource. She looks forward to a productive year on the Brain Injury Alliance Advisory Council. After all, this isn’t just her passion, it’s her mission.
ABOUT BRAIN INJURY ALLIANCE OF ARIZONA
Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona (BIAAZ) is a social benefit organization dedicated to creating a better future through brain injury prevention, advocacy, awareness and education. What began in 1984 as a grassroots effort has grown into a strong statewide presence, providing valuable resources for individuals with brain injuries, caregivers and neuro professionals.
For more information on living well after brain injury, contact the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona Statewide Neuro Info-Line 888- 500-9165.