When Aiofe Freeman-Cruz was a teenager, her mother was involved in a serious car accident and suffered a concussion.

Though this brain injury didn’t appear too serious at first, it ended up having life-long effects: a loss of some language skills, increased emotionality, and short- and long-term memory losses that ultimately affected not only Freeman-Cruz’s mother, but the three children she was raising on her own, as well.

Now working towards her Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Calgary’s Werklund School of Education, Freeman-Cruz is using her own experience growing up to learn more about the role a parental brain injury can play in adolescent development.

Brain injuries have been extensively researched, but a great deal remains unknown about how they can affect an individual.

Research into the ripple effects that a brain injury can have on other household and family members has been far less extensive, though it is well-documented that brain injuries can lead to major changes in personality, in personal relationships, and into general sociability.

A Calgary native, Freeman-Cruz has worked at Vecova Centre for Disability Services and Research and has volunteered with the Association for the Rehabilitation of the Brain Injured in Calgary.

Her mother is currently a university professor in the US, and her brain injury is no longer the focus of her life.

“I hesitate to say someone has ever fully recovered from a brain injury,” says Freeman-Cruz,  “because there will always be something that’s a little different. My parent has changed and so have I.”