Head Injuries/ Traumatic Brain Injuries

Brain injury can result from two types of trauma. First, brain injuries may be caused by external events from accidents or assaults. Second, brain injuries can result from internal events such as cerebral vascular accidents, loss of oxygen to the brain, or tumors. Individuals with brain injuries often experience many difficulties, which will have implications for the educational environment.

When an individual sustains a TBI, the following impairments may result:

  1. Memory – memory deficits are probably the most common characteristics of individuals who have sustained a TBI; primary problem is the inability to store information for immediate recall; long-term memory or previously acquired knowledge is usually intact.
  2. Cognitive/Perceptual Communication – distracted by extraneous stimuli, students may have difficulty focusing enough for learning to take place.
  3. Speed of Thinking – often takes longer to process information.
  4. Communications – Language Functions – writing, reading, speaking, listening may be impaired; additional problems may include interrupting, talking out of turn, dominating discussion, speaking too loudly or rudely, or standing too close to the listener.
  5. Spatial Reasoning – problems may include an inability to recognize position in space, shapes of objects, judging distances accurately, navigating, reading a map, visualizing images, or comprehending mechanical functions.
  6. Conceptualization – reduced ability to categorize, sequence, prioritize, and generalize information.
  7. Executive Functions – ability to engage in goal setting, planning, working toward a desired outcome in a flexible manner is often impaired.
  8. Psychosocial Behaviors – may include depression or withdrawal, mental inflexibility, denial, frustration, irritability, restlessness, anxiety, impulsivity, poor social judgment, disinhibition, euphoria, apathy, fatigue, and decreased awareness of personal hygiene.
  9. Motor, Sensory, and Physical Abilities – can result in specific impairments primarily manifested in the physical or medical condition of the individual after the injury.

Suggested Modifications and Accommodations:

  • Keep instructions as brief and uncomplicated as possible. Repeat exactly without paraphrasing.
  • Allow the student to tape record lectures.
  • Clearly define course requirements, the dates of exams, and when assignments are due. Provide advance notice of any changes.
  • Present lecture information in a visual format (e.g. chalkboard, overheads, Power Point slides, handouts, etc.).
  • Use more than one way to demonstrate or explain information.
  • Have copies of the syllabus ready no less than six weeks prior to the beginning of the semester so textbooks can be transcribed to tape in as timely a manner as possible.
  • When teaching, state objectives, review previous lessons and summarize periodically.
  • Allow time for clarification of directions and essential information.
  • Provide study guides or review sheets for exams.
  • Provide alternative ways for students to perform tasks (e.g., substituting oral for written work).
  • Provide assistance with proofreading written work. Stress organization and ideas rather than mechanics when grading in-class writing assignments.
  • Allow the use of spell-check and grammar-assistive devices when appropriate to the course.
  • Make instructional materials available in text form on the World Wide Web.
  • When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him or her as to what their needs may be.