Accessibility Resource Center

Acquired Brain Injury

Though not always visible and sometimes seemingly minor, Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) is complex. It can cause physical, cognitive, social, and vocational changes that affect an individual permanently. Depending on the extent and location of the injury, symptoms caused by a brain injury vary widely. Some common results are seizures, loss of balance and coordination, difficulty with speech, limited concentration, memory loss, fatigue, and loss of organizational and reasoning skills. Typical manifestations are a limited ability to assess situational details, make plans, and follow through. Class attendance may be irregular. All of these symptoms vary and are dependent upon the type of head injury.

Some Considerations

  • Students with brain injuries might perform well on brief, structured, one- and two-step tasks but have significant deficits in learning, memory, and executive functions. Often long-term memory of information learned before the trauma remains intact.
  • Recovery from ABI can be inconsistent, and a "plateau" is not evidence that functional improvement has ended.
  • ABI can substantially alter self-perception. The person may recall abilities and personal management skills prior to the injury but be experientially unaware that these abilities and skills are no longer the same.
  • When current performance fails to meet pre-disability performance expectations, depression often ensues.

Common accommodations for students with ABI may include time extensions on assignments and exams, recorded lectures, instructions presented in more than one way, alternative plans to complete assignments, note takers, course substitutions, priority registration, consultations regarding study skills and strategies, and alternative print formats.

Instructional Strategies

  • Keep instructions as brief and uncomplicated as possible. Repeat exactly without paraphrasing.
  • Assist the student in finding effective note takers from the class.
  • Allow the student to audio record lectures.
  • Clearly define course requirements, dates of exams, and when assignments are due. Provide advance notice of any changes.
  • Present lecture information in a visual format (e.g., chalkboard, overheads, PowerPoint slides, handouts, etc.).
  • Use more than one way to demonstrate or explain information.
  • Submit required course material to the Bookstore and have copies of the syllabus ready no less than six weeks prior to the beginning of the semester so textbooks can be transferred to an alternate format in as timely a manner as possible.
  • When teaching, state objectives, review previous lessons, and summarize periodically.
  • Allow time for clarification of directions and essential information.
  • Provide study guides or review sheets for exams.
  • Provide alternative ways for students to perform tasks (e.g., substituting oral for written work).
  • Aid with proofreading written work. Emphasize organization and ideas rather than mechanics when grading in-class writing assignments.
  • Allow the use of spell-check and grammar-assistive devices when appropriate to the course.
  • Make instructional materials from the internet available in text. For material that is graphical in nature, create text-based descriptions of the material.
  • When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask them privately without drawing attention to the student or the disability.