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Severe Traumatic Brain Injury Factsheet (for Schools)

What Teachers Should Know

A severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) is damage to the brain caused by an injury that changes the way the brain normally works. Concussions are sometimes called mild TBIs, and most have a temporary effect on brain function. Severe TBIs usually have longer-lasting effects.

Severe TBIs can cause temporary or permanent impairments in:

  • memory and attention
  • coordination, balance, and mobility
  • language and communication skills
  • hearing, vision, touch, smell, and taste
  • emotions, resulting in depression, anxiety, aggression, poor impulse control, and personality changes

Severe TBIs can affect all aspects of students' lives, including:

  • relationships with family, friends, classmates, and teachers
  • how they learn and participate in classroom and extracurricular activities

Students with TBI may:

  • have short- and long-term memory loss
  • need frequent breaks due to inability to concentrate for long periods of time
  • require seating accommodations or assistive devices in the classroom
  • need help and/or extra time getting to other classes
  • struggle with writing, reading, and other academic tasks they used to be able to do
  • have seizures or other neurological changes
  • seem depressed, anxious, or show aggressive or inappropriate behaviors
  • miss classroom time for medical appointments and to visit the school nurse for medicine
  • benefit from individualized education programs (IEPs) or 504 education plans
  • need extra time to complete homework and assignments

What Teachers Can Do

The effects of a TBI vary from person to person. Speak with your student's parents or guardians, the school counselor or psychologist, and special education staff to find ways to customize your instruction.

Students with TBIs often face a long-term healing process. To help students with problems related to concentration, organization, and memory, you can:

  • reduce distractions in the classroom
  • break assignments into smaller tasks
  • repeat and review assignments and have students write them down
  • provide a checklist of tasks to complete each day
  • give extra time for tests and assignments

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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