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What Is Traumatic Brain Injury?
Traumatic brain injury results from a sudden trauma to the head. The impact of the injury may not be seen immediately; long-term consequences may not present themselves until months or years after the injury. This type of injury can cause physical changes, with headaches, fatigue, and slowed reactions, and cognitive changes, including difficulties with thinking, remembering, concentrating, reasoning, processing, and learning new material - which is why an accommodation plan for traumatic brain injury patients is often necessary. Emotional and behavioral changes can also occur with depression, anxiety, moodiness, irritability, aggressiveness, and frustration from sudden changes or minor events.
Since traumatic brain injury differs in each individual, the lifelong changes resulting from the injury will differ, too. Generally, these changes will not disappear entirely over time. Negative changes from the injury may only be seen as affecting educational abilities. Developmental activities may reveal impairments as tasks become more difficult as children age.
While traumatic brain injury may share similarities with learning disabilities, differences do exist between the two. These differences are important to help the student learn. A student with traumatic brain injury, for instance, may remember material learned before the injury, but have severe difficulties learning new material. Also, students with traumatic brain injuries do recover some function, although recovery is usually unpredictable. Furthermore, traumatic brain injury is an acquired disability, meaning a student may remember his previous abilities and become frustrated, angry, and deny the difficulties he now experiences.
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Accommodations and Teaching Strategies
To maximize learning for these students, educators must form a plan. Accommodations and teaching strategies for traumatic brain injury can be categorized to improve concentration, memory, processing, and executive function, or the mental processes that help connect past experience with the present.
Some accommodations to improve concentration include:
- Have student sit near teacher in the classroom.
- Keep distractions to a minimum.
- Use peer note-takers.
- Allow student to use a tape recorder.
- Provide assignments in writing.
- Teach in small groups.
- Schedule classes when student’s attention is best.
- Focus student’s attention with verbal and nonverbal cues.
- Allow student to have frequent breaks.
Methods to improve memory include:
- Have student use a daily organizer to aid memory.
- Give multiple-choice tests.
- Have student use flash cards to help recall information.
- Encourage use of highlighters.
- Utilize student’s best learning mode – visual or auditory.
- Provide repetition of instruction.
- Ask student to repeat information to confirm comprehension.
Processing accommodations include:
- Review peer’s notes or taped materials to add missed information.
- Allow additional time for in-class assignments.
- Reduce amount of homework.
- Allow more time for student to respond.
Accommodations and teaching strategies for traumatic brain injury to improve executive function include:
- Have student return homework in a specific place.
- Display classroom schedule.
- Review daily routines with student.
- Encourage student to use daily organizer when giving assignments.
- Encourage student to outline assignments.
- Break projects into steps.
When forming accommodations and teaching strategies for traumatic brain injury, remember to seek input from parents, special education staff, and others involved in the student’s recovery. Encourage other students to help their classmate with classroom activities and moving from one class to another. With consistency and positive support, the student can reach his maximum academic potential.
- Students with Traumatic Brain Injury: Identification, Assessment and Classroom Accommodations, 2001.