Learning and behavioural changes

The scars from meningitis are not always visible. Whatever the outcome, meningitis can have a huge impact on many aspects of people’s lives

After meningitis

Our ongoing research has identified the true impact of meningitis – on the individual, their family, friends, and even our society – highlighting the need for support for life.

Learning and behavioural problems

  • Learning difficulties and behavioural problems can happen after meningitis, especially in babies and young children
  • Fortunately, many of these problems are short-term and improve with time
  • However, long term problems, such as aggression and personality changes are often associated with acquired brain injury (ABI) this is an injury to the brain that has happened after birth

Acquired brain injury (ABI)

Both meningitis and septicaemia can cause an ABI. 

  • An acquired brain injury (ABI) can also cause more subtle changes. The brain takes over 20 years to fully develop, so if a child or young adult has meningitis the development of the brain can be affected
  • The changes may not be apparent immediately after the illness. It may take months or even years before any changes are noticed
  • When problems are more subtle, for example, irritability, difficulties concentrating, clumsiness, temper tantrums and sleep disorders, it is sometimes difficult to be sure that these problems are caused by meningitis. It is not always easy to get the right help and support

Research

Our research project MOSAIC, published in Lancet Neurology, confirms that meningococcal disease (most common cause of bacterial meningitis) has a lifelong impact, leaving a significant number of survivors with reduced IQ and problems with memory, concentration and planning. The research has also shown that survivors are significantly more likely to need additional educational support or experience mental health disorders and physical disability.

Download the MOSAIC summary of results

Getting help

If you have been affected by meningitis, don’t suffer alone. We can help you. Call our Meningitis Helpline on 0808 80 10 388 or email helpline@meningitisnow.org to find out how.

  • When learning and behavioural difficulties following meningitis are long-term, you may need expert help and support
  • Many professionals including GPs, paediatricians, specialist teachers and psychologists can help to reduce problems and make life easier
  • Patience and understanding from family, employers, schools and those working with sufferers is vital
  • We have a number of resources available to help people in contact, or working with, anyone affected by meningitis, so that they understand what the changes could be after meningitis

Other organisations that can help

Information, Advice and Support Services Network (previously known as the Parents Partnership Network). Information, advice and support Services have a duty to provide information, advice and support to disabled children and young people, and those with special educational needs and their parents. They are statutory services which means there has to be one in every local authority. IPSEA is a national charity providing free legally based advice to families who have children with special educational needs. 

Been affected by learning and behavioural problems?

Don’t face meningitis alone. Call our Meningitis Helpline on 0808 80 10 388 to speak to our experienced staff. You can access our free support or ask us any questions. Whatever your experience, whenever it was, please get in touch. Our support is for life.

Fact sheets (download)

Learning and development concerns after meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia

Learning and Cognitive effects of ABI

Emotional and behavioural effects of ABI caused by meningitis and septicaemia