Compensatory Systems for Students with Brain Injuries

Compensatory Systems for Students with Brain Injuries

Ann Glang, McKay Moore Sohlberg and Bonnie Todis

Developing and implementing compensatory strategies for students with TBI or traumatic brain injury are complicated by multiple teachers and classroom changes in middle and high schools. This manual shows educators how to select a compensatory system, teach students how to use it, and monitor its effectiveness with adolescent students with a consistent plan for all teachers and classes.

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Full Description

This manual gives step by step activities and examples†on using compensatory strategies for†students with moderate to severe brain injuries in the classroom.† Shows teachers how to†select a compensatory system, how to teach students to use it, and how to monitor†its effectiveness†for the student. Includes practical guidelines that students, parents and teachers can follow with†forms for selecting a system, monitoring homework, using the system, tracking schedules, and monitoring student notebook.

ISBN# 1-931117-10-1
Pages 44 pages, 7 x 8Ĺ, softcover
Year 2016 (2nd edition)


McKay Moore Sohlberg, Ph.D.

As Professor in the Communication Disorders Program at the University of Oregon, Dr. Sohlberg conducts clinical research aimed at developing and evaluating methods to help adolescents and adults manage cognitive changes after brain injury.

Together with Drs. Glang and Todis, she worked on this project to learn how schools could help their students with brain injury be more successful. She is grateful for the insights of the many students and staff in secondary schools throughout Oregon who contributed to the development of these materials.

Bonnie Todis, Ph.D.

As Associate Research Professor at Teaching Research, a division of Western Oregon University, and University of Oregon, Dr. Todis has used qualitative methodology to explore a number of issues in special education, including assistive technology, resilience factors for youth with disabilities in incarcerated settings, and self-determination for adolescents with disabilities. Her current work focuses on studying effective supports for individuals with brain injuries in schools and other service delivery organizations.

Ann Glang, Ph.D.

As Associate Research Professor at Teaching Research, a division of Western Oregon University, and a research scientist at Oregon Center for Applied Sciences, Inc.(ORCAS), Dr. Glang has worked as a special education teacher and as an educational and behavioral consultant in a rehabilitation unit specializing in treating adolescents and adults with traumatic brain injury. Since 1987, her research interests have focused on developing effective support services for children with brain injuries, their families, and the schools who serve them. In her work at ORCAS, Dr. Glang is developing multimedia programs to teach pedestrian and bicycle safety skills to prevent brain injuries in children.


About the Authors

Special Thanks


Chapter 1 Selecting the Right System

Chapter 2 Preinstruction

Chapter 3 Instruction

Example of a Compensatory Strategy Instruction Lesson Plan

Chapter 4 Ongoing Monitoring



Worksheets and Forms

  • Selecting a Compensatory Organizational System
  • Homework Monitoring Form
  • Tracking Form for Using Organizational System
  • Schedule Tracking Form
  • Student Notebook Monitoring Form



The changes in organizational skills that result from brain injury can greatly affect a studentís success at school. While other students readily learn the organizational skills required at school, students with brain injuries often need extra help getting organized in the complex school environment.

As students enter middle, junior high and high school, organizational abilities become critical survival skills with the many changes in teachers, classes, schedules and activities.

The activities described in this manual are designed to help educators select a compensatory system, teach students how to use it, and monitor how well the system is working for the student. Effective use of a compensatory organizational system can have a tremendous impact on a studentís success at school. However, when not used effectively, it can lead to disappointment and frustration for students, parents and educators. This manual provides practical guidelines to help students with brain injuries use compensatory systems successfully. Carrying out the instructional approach described in this manual does not necessarily require extra time. It does require systematic careful thought. The partnership process outlined in this manual can also be used with other instructional areas for students with disabilities.

Chapter 1

Selecting the Right System

I donít know where to start.

If he has a memory problem, how will he remember to use the system?

Some of this is just common sense. We have a tendency to make things too complicated and then wonder why students fail.

I donít think I can help because Iím no expert in technology.

These are some of the frequent comments by educators as they try to figure out how to develop a compensatory system that will help a student with a brain injury who has difficulty with organization and memory.

Selecting the system

Identifying a system that meets your studentís needs takes planning and open communication with the student, teachers and family. The best way to determine what your student needs help with is to ask questions.

It is important that a system compensates for areas of difficulty while drawing on areas of strength.

Taking time to determine what the student needs will increase the likelihood that a system will be effective in increasing independence.

Examples of Compensatory Systems Social/Behavioral Skills

  • Names and numbers of peers
  • Lunch buddy schedule
  • Managing School Assignments
  • Lists to track class assignments

Checklists of materials needed for specific classes

  • Notebook/backpack to organize school materials
  • Navigating School Environment
  • Schedule of classes
  • List of room numbers for classes
  • Combination for locker

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