Attention after Brain Injury

Attention after Brain Injury

Jennifer Papa Llado, MS, CCC-SLP and Erica Blomberg, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS

Attention may be the most important cognitive skill but it can be affected by a brain injury or stroke. This tip card helps survivors, therapists, clinicians and families understand 5 types of attention: focused, sustained, selective, alternating, and divided. Authors give practical strategies for improving attention in rehabilitation, at home, in school, at work, or in the community.

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Full Description

Suggested activities are described to work on focused and sustained attention, selective attention, alternating attention, and divided attention. Tips for creating a health body, checking the environment, managing distractions, giving instructions, verbal and visual cueing will help families, friends and caregivers reduce frustration and support positive strategies.

Hemispatial neglect is a specific type of visual attention impairment that is explained. Tips for reducing neglect and using verbal and visual cues are provided for activities such as eating, reading, writing, and walking.

This tip card is highly recommended as a handout for families and individuals with acquired brain injuries such as TBI and stroke. For clinicians using the attention process training programs by Sohlberg and Mateer, this is a great tool to educate and support patients and families.

Pages 8
Year 2014


Jennifer Papa Llado, MS, CCC-SLP

A speech-language pathologist with an additional Master's Degree in Healthcare Leadership, Ms Papa Llado is an Area Rehabilitation Director in Boston.She established Bright Side Therapy, LLC in 2012. The company was inspired by years of experience working with the adult brain injury population in various settings. She has designed and developed a range of products for speech and language pathologists that address a variety of cognitive and communication challenges in adults with stroke or traumatic brain injury.

Erica Blomberg, MS, CCC-SLP

Ms Blomberg is a speech-language pathologist and Certified Brain Injury Specialist (CBIS) who is currently working as an advanced clinician in an inpatient rehabilitation setting in the Boston area, serving patients with strokes and mild-to-profound brain injuries including disorders of consciousness. She also volunteers for a local support group to assist brain injury survivors and their families stay connected to resources and area support.


What is Attention?

Attention Impairments

Types of Attention

  • Focused Attention
  • Sustained Attention
  • Selective Attention
  • Alternating Attention
  • Divided Attention


Improving Attention

  • Tips for creating a healthy body...
  • Tips for checking the environment...
  • Tips for increasing self-awareness...
  • Tips for using strategies...

Speak your Truth

Practice Strategies to Use in Your Life

Tips for families, friends and caregivers...

Activities to Challenge Your Attention

Focused and Sustained Attention

Selective Attention

Alternating Attention

Divided Attention

Hemispatial Neglect (Left Neglect)

Tips for reducing neglect…

Tips for verbal cues...

Tips for visual cues...

Tips for encouragement...

Final Thoughts on Attention)


What is Attention?

Attention is the ability to focus or concentrate. Attention skills range from simple to complex. For instance, focusing on one task for a short time is a simple attention task. A more complex task may require attention to two or more things at once for longer time or shifting attention back and forth between different items or tasks.

Attention is the most important cognitive skill. Without attention, you cannot remember new things, write a check, drive a car or read a book. It is the foundation of all our thinking processes and influences so much of what we do every day. Without the ability to attend, we would have a difficult time maneuvering through the many very simple and complicated aspects of our day-to-day lives.

When the brain has been damaged, a person’s ability to pay attention can be affected. This can range from a mild to severe impairment. For instance, someone whose attention is mildly affected may have subtle difficulty multi-tasking. This may prevent the person from returning to work fulltime. Or a person might go back to work and now find it hard to complete tasks that were very easy before the injury. Subtle changes in attention can lead to fatigue, frequent headaches, and overall irritability or frustration, as the person finds it harder to complete tasks that once were done with little effort.

A person with a more severe impairment in attention may be unable to hold even brief conversations or finish a simple task such as eating a meal. A person may now require supervision or help to complete even day-to-day routines and activities. Regardless of the severity, impairments in attention can create a very difficult and frustrating situation for the person who has been injured, as well as loved ones and caregivers.

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