Strokes in Babies

What Is a Stroke?

strokes in babies
A stroke, also known as a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), occurs when the blood supply to any part of the brain is interrupted, resulting in tissue death and loss of brain function. If blood flow is interrupted for longer than a few seconds, brain cells can die, causing permanent damage.

What Causes a Stroke in Infants and Children?

A stroke may be caused by a blood clot that forms in the brain (a thrombus) or a blood clot, piece of plaque, or other material that travels to the brain from another location (an embolism). The resulting stroke-related symptoms depend on the area of the brain affected, the extent of the damage, and the cause of the stroke. Bleeding (hemorrhage) within the brain can, on rare occasions, cause symptoms that mimic stroke.

Prenatal Stroke

Stroke can also occur when the fetus is still in the womb. It is also called Fetal Stroke or In Utero Stroke.

Stroke in babies under the age of 30 days occurs in 1 in 1,600 – 5000 infants.

Children and strokes occur at the rate of 11 in 100,000.

Strokes in children can result in cerebral palsy, seizures, language delays, behavioral challenges, learning challenges, attention deficit disorder (ADD), anxiety, and depression.

What’s Possible for the Child with Stroke?

In our experience, using Anat Baniel Method® (ABM) NeuroMovement®, we have observed babies, young children, and teenagers learn to move, think, feel, and act in ways that seemed impossible before. We have seen these children become happier, improve academically, and develop a fuller, more independent and satisfying life.

We have seen the parents experience relief and greater hope, and become inspired by their child.

What Can Be Done for Stroke in Babies and Children?

The first thing to know is how important immediate intervention is. The brain is a self-organizing system and with children, it is highly plastic, meaning that the brain continuously grows and changes in response to its experience and does so extremely rapidly. Learn more about how to promote child development.

ABM NeuroMovement® awakens the child’s brain and provides it with new information it needs in order to figure out alternative solutions—learning skills that otherwise he or she wouldn’t be able to figure out due to the brain damage. The ABM NeuroMovement Practitioner does this through the utilization of the Nine Essentials of the Method and the practical applications of these principles.

The Story of Julie, a Baby Who Had a Prenatal Stroke

Julie was born with a prenatal stroke. Her right arm, hand, and fingers were most affected. She couldn’t open the hand which was fisted, and didn’t have any voluntary movement in it. Her right leg was also affected. Her parents brought her to the ABM Center when she was 5 months old. The first few sessions were done while she was nursing. Julie felt safe. She became very attentive to the gentle movements we did with her pelvis, spine, neck, and eventually her shoulders, head and arms.

After the first session, Julie began to spontaneously open her fisted hand for a few seconds at a time. By the third session, she was clearly moving more freely and with less spasticity throughout her whole right side.

Her mom reported how Julie was becoming more aware, not just of her own body, including the affected right side, but was also becoming more aware of her surroundings. Every day, without prompting, Julie moved her body in new ways.

At first the changes could seem small, even though from the point of view of the brain they were huge, and within a few weeks the changes in Julie were obvious to everyone. From our (ABM) point of view, Julie’s brain was differentiating and creating new connections at an extremely rapid rate, allowing the brain to integrate and develop patterns of movement and cognition despite the brain tissue loss.

We continued working with Julie for a couple of years. Now Julie is a beautiful and fully functioning teenager. Her right hand is still a bit slower than her left; however Julie can do whatever she wants to.

Make sure whatever intervention or therapy you choose for your child that it follows the currently known rules for positive brain change. In other words, it’s important that the intervention is done in such a way that it avoids driving the brain to learn its own limitations. Remember that the brain learns its experience, not what we want it to learn.

The NeuroMovement® approach of the Anat Baniel Method defines the Nine Essentials. Each Essential provides a specific and powerful way to wake up the child’s brain and have it create alternative, new ways of organizing action and moving the child beyond his or her limitations. These Essentials are all validated by recent brain research.

Read success stories from parents about infants and children who have experienced a stroke and used ABM NeuroMovement to overcome their challenges.

Watch Cypress’ progress over three years with ABM NeuroMovement, and listen to his mother’s description of her experience.

The Nine Essentials will inform you as to what to look for in any kind of therapy and whether any specific intervention is in harmony or opposes positive brain change. These Essentials also give you powerful guidelines on what you can do with your child in daily life so that daily living becomes an effective source for recovery for your child and her or his brain.


View Neuroscientist Dr. Michael Merzenich talking about brain plasticity and the Nine Essentials.

children and strokes

What If My Child is Older?

While it is greatly advantageous to start the right kind of intervention as soon as medically and otherwise possible, it’s never too late. The human brain is built to change throughout life.

We have worked with children and teenagers with severe brain damage and extreme limitations who experienced transformational and life-changing results. Their mobility, speech, cognitive, and social capabilities increased dramatically. Their brain mapped more of their bodies giving them more freedom and control in their action, and a fuller sense of self and personal empowerment.

We have had similar results with adults. My friend, Jill Bolte Taylor, author of the book My Stroke of Insight and the TED Talk: My Stroke of Insight, has told me numerous times that the Nine Essentials of ABM NeuroMovement describe the process that she and her mother G.G. created for her to heal from her devastating stroke. Jill also told me that these Nine Essentials describe the theoretical and provide highly effective practices to help stroke survivors recover.

Read Anat Baniel’s and Dr. Bolte Taylor’s Conversation about her stroke on the HuffPost Healthy Living.

Also see strokes in adults:

For the Professional

If you are a physical therapist (PT), occupational therapist (OT), teacher, massage therapist (MT), speech therapist (ST), or any other professional who works with children and strokes, learning the Nine Essentials and integrating them into what you already do will transform not only the outcomes that your little clients will get through their work with you, but it will transform your experience as a therapist and teacher. You will be empowered and energized at the same time. You may want to dive more deeply into the Anat Baniel Method NeuroMovement Program.

For the obstetrician and pediatrician: It is of incredible importance that you are familiar with and understand the power of positive brain change; that you realize that there are practical ways to implement these principles. When therapists are trained to take advantage of the remarkable potential of the brain to change itself and overcome limitations, the developmental trajectory of the child changes in ways that make generations of prior experience and known prognoses obsolete. You have in your hands incredible power over the future of any child suffering from stroke or any other kind of brain damage. You have the opportunity to guide the parents, at a time of great distress, to a path that allows a child the best chance for successful development.

To learn more: