Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic Brain Injury is a disability that results from brain damage caused from an external blow to the head. TBI is a leading cause of disability and death among children. NICHCY reports that more than 1 million people sustain head injuries each year. Head injuries range from very mild to severe.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines traumatic brain injury as…

“…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 §300.8(c)(12)]

Unfortunately many children with TBI are classified for special education on the basis of a learning disability or mental retardation. These designations do not accurately reflect the educational needs of the child.

Characteristics of children after a TBI

Difficulty with cognitive skills involving thinking and reasoning
Difficulty using language and understanding language
Difficulty with tasks and activities involving memory
Difficulty with paying attention
Vision and hearing may be altered after the TBI
Difficulty with motor skills (using hands and using arms and legs)
Difficulty regulation behavior (difficulty with emotional control, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, etc.)
Difficulty acquiring and remembering new information

Services that may benefit children with a TBI

Speech and lanuage therapy
Physical therapy
Cognitive re-training
Occupational Therapy
Special education services
Monitoring of progress of recovery by a team of TBI professionals

Strategies for working with children with TBI

Emotional and behavioral difficulties may arise because the child remembers how they functioned prior to the accident
Careful re-entry into school needs to be planned by the school and medical team
The child may need a reduced school day due to difficulties with stamina
Memory training is needed to assist the child in making a recovering to fullest potential
Tasks and activities may need to be broken into small chunks
Repetition of information is needed and repeated practice opportunities
Attention span impacts ability to stay focused for lengthy time periods, provide frequent breaks
Provide opportunities for success