A student with a brain injury may qualify for special education services under the disability category traumatic brain injury (TBI). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) outlines the conditions that fall within this classification, formally defining TBI 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 definition continues to specify, “Traumatic brain injury 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.”
Please note the last sentence. It indicates that hereditary brain injuries, conditions that worsen over time and brain injuries caused by birth complications do not fall under TBI.
A wide range of traits are associated with traumatic brain injury, according to the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (commonly called NICHCY). These include mental, physical and emotional issues such as:
- Memory difficulties, both short-term and long-term
- Problems concentrating
- Trouble maneuvering, maybe even paralysis
- Struggles with relating to peers
The above issues lead to some unique educational challenges, such as those listed below.
- Difficulty taking tests and exams
- Problems with following complex directions
- Difficulty learning new skills
Tips for Teachers and Parents
Teachers, Oklahoma’s State Department of Education advises giving students with TBIs extra time to complete tests, as well as breaking down complex directions into smaller steps, providing directions in writing and teaching a student to use a day planner. Using a day planner to keep track of assignments and schedules can help the student stay organized and avoid confusion.
Perhaps the most important tip for teachers and parents to consider is to take the time to get to know each child as an individual. Parents, TBI assessment offers an ideal opportunity for such a process. Before your son or daughter returns to the classroom after a traumatic brain injury he or she should go through an evaluation process to create an individualized education plan (IEP) and identify which special education services might prove beneficial. To learn more about IEPs read The IEP Process Explained.