Gathering Information When a Student Has a Brain Injury

 Information is Important for Students with TBI 

By Marilyn Lash, M.S.W.

Lash & Associates Publishing/Training, Inc

Each school year brings many changes for students, teachers and parents.

Fears, frustrations and uncertainties may accompany exciting changes when a student has a brain injury and goes to school. Will classmates treat me differently now? Will the teacher know how to help me? What if I can’t keep up?

FamilyNot only do classmates, teachers, room assignments and books change, but the content and type of school work changes with each grade. As schoolwork becomes more complex with each passing year, the brain is challenged in new ways. Recovery from the injury and ongoing brain development are occurring simultaneously for this student. It is over time that the long-term effects of a student’s brain injury become fully evident as learning becomes more complex and schoolwork is more challenging.

Begin with information

There is a lot going on and it’s not surprising that educators, students and parents often aren’t quite sure how to begin. The place to start is with information. Regardless of when the student was injured, information is the key to helping the educational team understand and meet the needs of this student. The following list helps parents and educators get started. Try to include the student in this process whenever possible.

Step 1.  Set up a meeting with parents and all teachers and staff involved with the student.

Step 2.  Review medical and rehabilitation information about the severity of the student’s injury, current medications and side effects, and ongoing therapies.

Step 3.  Review reports from specialists, including therapists and neuropsychologists, to understand which parts of the brain were injured and possible consequences for learning and behavior.

Step 4.  Have samples of the student’s work from the previous school year, including

  • effective instructional strategies
  • compensatory strategies for memory, organization, and planning
  • techniques for managing behaviors
  • adaptive devices
  • schedule changes because of fatigue

Step 5.  Review what special services or supports were provided last year, what worked and what was not helpful. Make sure everyone has a clear understanding of this student’s strengths, difficulties and needs.

Step 6.  Set up a plan for regular feedback and communication between the educational team and parents. Don’t wait for problems to develop.

Step 7.  Identify resources within and outside the school who can provide in-services on brain injury and consultation.

Step 8.  Be flexible. Recovery is a continuous process, especially in the first 1-2 years after brain injury. Goals and objectives need to be continually revised as the student’s needs and abilities change. The educational plan needs to a flexible tool, not a fixed written document.

Step 9.  Prepare for transitions. Consistency and structure are very important for the student with a brain injury. Any change, not matter how small, needs careful preparation for the student to succeed.

Step 10.  Look ahead. Time passes and students grow up. The ultimate measure of a student’s education is preparation for adulthood. Don’t wait until senior year to think about what happens next. Transition planning under special education must begin when the student is age 14. A plan must be put into action by age 16.

Parents have a special role and perspective in gathering information. No one knows their child better. They not only have the comparison of their child before and after the injury, but they have seen their child progress through the various stages of medical care and rehabilitation. Parents are the link between various teachers, classes and schools. Use their experience to understand how to teach this student effectively and plan on involving parents in this process. If parents are to be able to help students with homework and support the efforts of teachers, they must be an integral part of the educational team. Only if parents and educators work together can there be an effective educational plan that will truly benefit this student.

Recommended reading 

Learning and Cognitive Communication ChallengesLearning and Cognitive Communicative Challenges

By Roberta DePompei, Ph.D. and Janet Tyler, Ph.D.

Manual with teaching strategies for students with acquired brain injury and challenges with behavior, attention, cognition and language.


Educational Series on Teaching and BehaviorEducational Series on Teaching and Behavior after Brain Injury

Four manuals with information and strategies on teaching and addressing challenging .behaviors of students with brain injuries. 



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