Signs and Strategies for Educating Students with Brain Injuries

Signs and Strategies for Educating Students with Brain Injuries

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

Educating students with brain injuries

Educating a student with a brain injury can be challenging for teachers and therapists unfamiliar with the immediate and long-term consequences of brain trauma. This manual describes the effects of acquired brain injuries on a student's learning, behavior, communication, cognition and adjustment in school and at home. There are strategies for instruction, support and accommodation with student vignettes.

Signs and Strategies is also available as an eBook click here.

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Full Description

This book gives a basic overview of the consequences that brain injuries can have on a studentís learning and behavior. It sorts out myths from facts, explains common changes at home and in school, and gives strategies for the classroom.

There are detailed worksheets to transfer information as the student moves from teacher to teacher, grade to grade and school to school. This manual has outsold all of our other books due to its clear, practical and useful approach. This is a must have book for educators and families.

ISBN# 1-931117-00-4
Pages 112 pages, 7 x 8Ĺ, soft cover
Year 2016 (fourth edition)


Marilyn Lash, M.S.W.

Currently President and founder of Lash and Associates Publishing/Training Inc., Ms Lash is committed to providing practical information in user friendly language that is based on clinical research and best practices in the field. Her involvement of parents and educators in the development of this manual reflects a philosophy that families and schools must strive to work together to become partners in their role as service providers. Families and educators are pivotal partners in the studentís development, recovery and education following a studentís brain injury.

Ms Lashís work over more than 30 years in medical, rehabilitation, educational and vocational settings has reinforced her belief that bridges need to be built between systems in order to avoid the fragmentation and frustration that families so commonly experience. Trained as a social worker at Boston University School of Social Work, she has experience as a clinician, researcher, trainer and administrator but her greatest interest is in program development.

She serves on various national and governmental task forces on brain injury and children with special needs to advise on health policy and research initiatives as well as on editorial boards of rehabilitation journals. Author of over 45 publications, Ms. Lash speaks nationally on psychosocial and educational issues for youths with brain injuries and their families. She is curently the Chairperson for the Brain Injury Association of North Carolina.

Gary Wolcott, M.Ed.

An experienced counselor, administrator and trainer, Gary Wolcott has long been an advocate for families of children with brain injuries as well as a consultant with school systems. He was instrumental in raising the national awareness of rehabilitation professionals and educators about the long-term cognitive effects of brain injuries in children and their impact on learning.

He has been the Director of Education for the National Head Injury Foundation, founded a management and training consulting business, and worked as a researcher and educational specialist at the Research and Training Center in Rehabilitation and Childhood Trauma at Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston.

Gary Wolcott is now based in the Portland, Maine area providing consultation and training services. He currently serves as Director of Education, Training and Staff Development at Goodwill Industries of Northern New England.

Sue Pearson, M.A.

Sue Pearson has worked as the state consultant for students with brain injuries for 12 years. Employed by the Iowa Department of Education, she worked with 15 brain injury resource teams across the state, creating communication networks with hospital and rehabilitation personnel, educational professionals and families. These networks continue to assist students with the transition from hospital based care to educational services in their local communities. The joint efforts of the Iowa Department of Education and the University of Iowa Center for Excellence on Disabilities serve as a model for other states to recognize and meet the special educational needs of students with brain injuries.

Trained as a special educator, Sue Pearsonís major areas of study include orthopedic disabilities and learning disabilities. Building on her work in developmental disabilities for the past 25 years, she has conducted numerous workshop and conference presentations for educators, families and medical staff in Iowa and across the country. She has written extensively on the topic of school reentry and has been involved in the production of several training videos for educators and families, including Pieces of the Puzzle: An Introduction to Brain Injury.

Currently, Sue is employed by the University of Iowa as the Interdisciplinary Training Coordinator for the Iowa Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities Program. This program is sponsored by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau and strives to train future leaders who will be working with children and young adults with disabilities.


About the authors
Chapter 1 Helping families
Chapter 2 Sorting out myths and facts
Chapter 3 Signs and changes to watch for
Chapter 4 Classroom strategies
Chapter 5 Working with the neuropsychologist
Worksheet 1 Transitions back to school
Worksheet 2 Moving to the next grade
Worksheet 3 Moving between classes in middle or high school


Sample excerpt. Preview only Ė please do not copy.


In 1991, an amendment to the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was passed. It created a category of traumatic brain injury to help educators identify these students and respond to their unique needs. The definition used under this law is

" acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force, resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment, or both, that adversely affects a childís educational performance. The term applies to open or closed head injuries resulting in impairments in one or more areas, such as cognition; language; memory; attention; reasoning; abstract thinking; judgment; problem-solving; sensory, perceptual, and motor abilities; psychosocial behavior; physical functions; information processing; and speech. The term does not apply to brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative, or to brain injuries induced by birth trauma." (256B, 34CFR300)

The National Center on Health Statistics reports that brain injury is the leading cause of disability in children between ages 1-14. Yet, in every state, the number of students receiving special education and related services with the classification of traumatic brain injury remains low in comparision to other conditions.

It has been estimated that up to 1,000,000 children receive brain injuries each year and that 1 in 500 children will be hospitalized with a brain injury each year. If the incidence of traumatic brain injury is so high, why is the number of students identified in the schools so low? Children who sustain mild brain injuries may not be identified at all, despite changes in their learning and behavior. Some students, whose injuries and resulting disabilities are more obvious, may be receiving services under other educational categories. Accurately identifying these students is a first and necessary step toward developing and providing the special education and support services they need in order to reach their potential for academic and vocational achievement, emotional growth, and preparation for adulthood. This book was written to help educators work through these critical issues.

The authors have several comments about terminology in this book. Although the federal law uses the term traumatic brain injury, there is another population of children with acquired brain injuries due to brain tumors, infections such as encephalitis and meningitis, and anoxic incidents such as near drownings, strangulation or suffocation. There are ongoing debates in many states about whether to use the limited traumatic definition of brain injury or to broaden this category to include all acquired brain injuries. While all states must comply with the federal definition, they have the option to use a broader definition under their state Department of Educationís regulations.

The authors have chosen to use the term brain injury for this book. Our practical experience is that children with traumatic and acquired brain injuries share an interruption in the ongoing development of the brain. While the cause of the injury may differ, the consequences are similar in terms of the changes that parents and educators will see and in the childís ability to learn. Our use of the generic term brain injury includes both traumatic and acquired causes.

The other terms used often in this book are family and parent. They also are intended to be inclusive and recognize that the definition of family varies widely and includes many kinds of parents. The nuclear family with two parents is not the only model and is becoming less common. Single parents, step-parents, foster parents, adoptive parents, grandparents, and other relatives often are the primary caregivers who provide the emotional nurturing, physical care and supervision that all children need. Thus the term parent or family is intended to be inclusive and encompass all individuals who are closely involved in raising a child.

Finally, this book is a practical guide to help families and educators get started. Many checklists and worksheets have been designed so that you can apply the information to your child or your student. While the topic is complex, we have tried to present the information clearly with plenty of practical examples.