Learning and Cognitive Communication Challenges: Developing Educational Programs for Students with Brain Injuries

Learning and Cognitive Communication Challenges: Developing Educational Programs for Students with Brain Injuries

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

Cognitive communication - or how the student with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) thinks and learns Ė can challenge educators unfamiliar with TBI. This manual explains the dynamics of cognitive processes and classroom behaviors. Developmental challenges are explored with the increased language demands of English and Language Arts, Social Studies, Mathematics, and Science.

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Full Description

This manual is for educators when a child in the classroom has a brain injury. It details classroom behaviors caused by changes in attention, processing speed, short-term memory, and long-term memory after TBI. Manual also covers a child's changes in organization, problem solving, impulsivity, expressive language, receptive language, pragmatic language, and executive functioning after a brain injury.

Chapters discuss cognitive-communicative challenges when a student has an acquired brain injury and how they can affect learning and behavior in the classroom.† Strategies and tips show how to build on cognitive-communicative strengths using an integrative approach.† Methods are given for†teachers and aides to†assess effectiveness of†teaching strategies.

ISBN# 1-931117-26-8
Pages 48 pages, 7 x 8Ĺ, softcover
Year 2016 (2nd edition)


Roberta DePompei, Ph.D.

Roberta DePompei, Ph.D., is a Professor and Clinical Supervisor at the Audiology and Speech Center at the University of Akron in Ohio. An advocate of the needs of youths with brain injuries and their families, she is on numerous national task forces and committees, as well as former co-chair of the Special Interest Group on Children and Adolescents with Brain Injuries for the Brain Injury Association of America.

Widely published and a national and international presenter, Dr. DePompei specializes in the impact of brain injury upon speech, language and communication. She is especially interested in developing transitional opportunities for students as they progress through school and prepare for adulthood.

Janet Tyler, Ph.D.

Janet Tyler, Ph.D., is the Director of the Kansas State Department of Educationís Neurologic Disabilities Support Project, a statewide program that provides inservice training, consultation and technical assistance to educators serving students with traumatic brain injuries. Dr. Tyler also serves as an adjunct member of the Department of Special Educationís graduate faculty at the University of Kansas where she provides preservice training in traumatic brain injury. Since 1987, she has published, presented and consulted widely on educational issues related to traumatic brain injury.


About the Authors

Chapter 1
Cognitive-Communicative Challenges after Brain Injury
Challenge 1: Recognizing Interactions between Cognitive Processes and Classroom Behaviors
Challenge 2: Remembering Developmental Aspects that May Affect Performance over Time
The Case of Matt: A Student Displaying Developmental Challenges

Chapter 2
Effect of Cognitive-Communicative Challenges on Learning and Behaving in the Classroom
Challenges to Language, Executive Functioning and Self-Regulation for a Child with Cognitive-Communicative Problems
Language Demands on the Curriculum
The Case of Matt: Curriculum Challenges

Chapter 3
Treatment of Cognitive-Communicative Strengths and Needs:
An Integrative Approach for School
Identifying Needs of the Student
Student Academic Functioning Checklist
Strategies for Addressing Underlying Cognitive Processes
Addressing Academic Deficits
Using Direct Instruction
Functional Skills Approach

Chapter 4
Assessing Teaching Strategies
Evaluation of Accommodations and Teaching Strategies
The Case of Matt: Evaluating Strategies for Organization in the Classroom

Chapter 5
Transitioning Students with TBI
The Case of Matt: Transition Planning




Children and adolescents with brain injury can experience problems with speech, language, and cognitive-communicative abilities that will interfere with learning and social interactions. Learning is a primary job for youths. Because learning is language-based, success after brain injury in home, school and the community is dependent on the ability to communicate effectively.

Following are key definitions of terms that are used in this manual to discuss cognitive-communicative disorders that may occur after brain injury:


Use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, and gesturing to either understand an idea or express a thought...


Production of sounds that make up words and sentences


Use of words and sentences to convey ideas


Use of language and underlying processes such as attention, memory, self-awareness, organization, problem solving and reasoning to communicate effectively.

Students with brain injury often have one or more of the above processes of language impaired. They can also fail to develop new and more complex communication skills over time.

Recognizing these potential changes and intervening to aid the communication process will help the student be more successful in learning endeavors at home, in school, or in the community.

Since language and learning are intimately related, supports for the student that are language based are essential to developing adequate learning skills.

Typically, the speech-language pathologist assists the student by identifying communicative challenges and proposing strategies to facilitate skill development. However, assessment, intervention, and use of language skills to facilitate learning are the responsibility of all who interact with the student. Therefore, it is imperative that teachers, employers, and family members understand cognitive-communication and are familiar with strategies that support communication attempts.

This manual focuses on helping communication partners recognize the cognitive-communicative challenges that can exist after a student has a brain injury. It provides usable strategies that anyone- family, educators or clinicians - can use with the student. As the majority of rehabilitation for children and adolescents occurs at school and in the community, the needs of these students require educators and therapists to plan interactively and proactively.

This manual:

  1. Describes common cognitive-communicative behaviors in students after brain injury.
  2. Explains how cognitive-communicative challenges can affect the studentís learning and behavior in the classroom.
  3. Outlines strategies for learning in school.
  4. Suggests ideas for evaluating the effectiveness of strategies.
  5. Explains the importance of transition planning.

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