Students with Traumatic Brain Injury

Students With Traumatic Brain Injury Challenge Teachers and Schools

Katherine A. Kimes, Ed.D., CBIS

Traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of disability among children and youth.  Students returning to school with traumatic brain injuries may have an entire range of physical, cognitive, behavioral, social and emotional challenges.  Exposure to education can aid in the recovery of these functions. Much as schools promote learning, recovery is a re-learning process, so it is important for educators in the school system to provide support and services to students with brain injuries.

Unfortunately, brain injury has dropped off our educators’ radar, and often goes unnoticed due to under-reporting and/or misidentification. However, more and more children, adolescents and young adults are surviving their injuries due to advances in medical technology. But students with brain injury who return to school  are often at a disadvantage because they require special accommodations, supports and services of which educators have little knowledge and training. Without these educational programs and services, students with brain injuries are at greater risk for lower academic performance, failing grades and dropping out of high school. If we are to meet the challenge of educating students with brain injuries, then we need to take some major steps toward changing our national educational system.

Currently, there are 5.3 million Americans living with the effects of a long-term disability due to a brain injury, with 1.5 million sustaining a traumatic brain injury annually. Educators will admit to not knowing much about brain injury.  They believe that they have not had many, if any students in their classrooms who have sustained brain injuries. This, unfortunately, is a wide-spread misconception. The epidemic of TBI in our youth has posed many problems. Effectively educating these students can only occur if educators are given appropriate supports and transitional services. By not knowing how best to support the students, teachers are liable to inhibit the cognitive recovery of their students, compounding the challenges faced by them, and failing to prepare them for adulthood.

The SYSTEM needs to change

Right now, the mission is to increase teachers’ awareness of brain injury so that they can provide effective and appropriate educational supports and transitional services for the student brain injury community.  Access to this information will enable educators to provide students with improved opportunities for their futures – futures that encompass not only academic success, but also include the transition from high school into communities, businesses and higher-learning institutions.

  • Level 1 Change

use professional development to increase the level of competency among  

educators by providing a foundation of knowledge about brain injury

  • Level 2 Change

expand educators’ skills to include identification and assessment of cognitive, 

physical and psychosocial challenges

  • Level 3 Change

train educators in the learning differences of students with brain injury 

compared to other disabilities

  • Level 4 Change

learn instructional strategies

  • Level 5 Change

increase educators’ competency regarding awareness of how students’ learning

environments and social interactions can change after brain injury

Achieving any systematic change requires increasing the competency level of not only teachers, but also parents, administrators, professionals and the students themselves.


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About the Author

Dr. Kimes is the President of ABI Education Services, LLC a consulting business that addresses the educational needs of children and adolescents with acquired brain injury (ABI).

Recommended Reading

These and other books on brain injury symptoms, treatment and recovery are available from Lash and Associates Publishing/Training Inc.

Students with Brain Injury  

By Katherine Kimes, Ed.D., Marilyn Lash, M.S.W. and Ron Savage, Ed.D. 

This TBI manual for educators and parents provides a foundation for understanding the educational needs and behavioral challenges of children with traumatic brain injuries.


Signs and Strategies for Educating Students with Brain Injuries

By Marilyn Lash, M.S.W., Gary Wolcott, M.Ed. and Sue Pearson, M.A.

Manual describes the consequences of brain injuries on a student’s learning, behavior, communication, cognition and adjustment in school and at home.

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