A MOTHER whose teenage daughter was left with devastating brain injuries following a car crash is backing new research looking at how to help young children with head injuries.

Kira Middleton, 16, from Hassocks, was just two-and-a-half years old when she was involved in the accident.

She now uses a wheelchair, requires help with personal care and can only use the left side of her body.

Her mother Erika Cullen says the latest studies, which are being backed by Horsham-based charity Action Medical Research, are hugely important.

She said: “Kira is 16 now, but in many ways she’s still a little girl. She’s got the same happy personality she had before her head injury.

“Thankfully, she has no real understanding of what has happened to her.”

“Kira is able to talk, but her speech is limited. She can read at about the level of a six or seven-year-old.

“She can only use her right hand, and needs help with everyday basics like eating and washing.”

Carers come twice a day to help Kira get ready for the day with a bath or shower and go to bed at night.

They also help her enjoy activities like making birthday cards.

Although physically well, Kira is still vulnerable and has no sense of fear of danger.

The studies being backed by the charity include a three year one at Imperial College in London, which is developing sophisticated new brain scans to enable more accurate diagnosis of children’s problems after brain injuries.

He hopes that, one day, this work will help doctors predict how each child may be affected and identify the type of healthcare and educational support that will be most helpful.

Mrs Cullen said: “The brain is so complex. There definitely needs to be more research into how different parts of the brain are used, and whether memory can be improved to help children in their everyday life.

“I would love to know more about what Kira is able to understand and whether she thinks ahead,

“More detailed brain scans have the potential to really help other children who, like Kira, have suffered a serious head injury.”

Researchers from the universities of Exeter and East Anglia, along with the Medical Research Council, are evaluating whether a computerised memory-training programme can help children who have survived a brain injury.

The aim is to see if this programme offers benefits in terms of memory, academic performance, behaviour, emotional wellbeing and family life.