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Traumatic Brain Injury - TBI

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What Is Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Traumatic Brain Injury can have a significant impact on classroom performance and may affect cognitive, social, physical and psychological functioning which can vary from being quite severe or to being quite mild depending on the amount of damage. TBI usually results from accidents or from a blow to the head. TBI isn't used for a person born with a brain injury or injured during birth. For the most part, every brain injury is different as the part of the brain involved in the injury may vary. Many children will have lifelong disabilities as a direct result of TBI.

IDEA's Definition of 'Traumatic Brain Injury'

Our nation's special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines traumatic brain injury as "an an 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 child’s 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; psycho-social 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.” [34 Code of Federal Regulations §300.7(c)(12)]

Academic Implications

Many children with TBI will exhibit characteristics of learning and or behavioral disabilities. Some areas of difficulty may include all or some of the following items:

  • Difficulty with logic, thinking and reasoning
  • Slower to respond, react and complete actvities and tasks
  • Difficulty focusing attention
  • Physical limitations
  • Inappropriate social behaviors
  • Difficulty remembering
  • Frequently puzzled or challenged by grade level work
  • Difficulty learning
  • It is believe that TBI has a profound effect on new learning even though previous learning may remain in tact
  • Never underestimate the potential for growth and development
  • Some TBI children will have speech and language deficits
  • Best Practices

  • Become informed, work with the parents to understand as much as you can about the child
  • Exercise patience and lower your expectations
  • Set the student up for sucess
  • Repeat instructions, directions as needed and provide one direction at a time
  • Allow the student more time to complete tasks and reduce the workload if needed
  • Activities/tasks requiring the student to concentrate for long periods of time should be avoided
  • It's important to remember that the student takes a longer amount of time to process information
  • Be sure to have consistent routines and rules
  • Keep distractions to a minimum
  • Remember to assess this student with an approach that will meet his/her needs - i.e., additional time, more observation etc.
  • Make sure the IEP is in place and that it is flexible - a working document.
  • Each child with TBI is unique in needs.
  • The child may require a modified schedule and or a behavioral plan
  • The child may need direct support in organizational strategies
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