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Teaching Students with Traumatic Brain Injury Video

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  • 0:03 Traumatic Brain Injury
  • 1:25 Common Characteristics
  • 2:18 Accommodations
  • 4:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Abigail Cook
Imagine waking up one day unable to remember what happened the day before, or having a difficult time reading a book. This lesson will explore a few teaching strategies that might help a student with a traumatic brain injury.

Traumatic Brain Injury

Beth is a sixth grade student who loves school and is a model student in the classroom. She finishes her assignments early, keeps track of her homework, and does well on tests and projects. Beth rides her bike around town, including to and from friends' houses and violin practice. One day, she got on her bike without a helmet and rode to school. She looked down for a moment to check her shoelaces, and when she looked up, another girl was in her path. Beth swerves, trying to avoid the girl, but she fell and hit her head on the pavement. Later in this lesson, we will come back to Beth and explore the challenges she faces in school as a result of her head injury.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an acquired open or closed head injury caused by external force, causing an individual to become impaired in some way. It is one of the disability categories listed under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Impairments may include problems with language, memory, motor skills, behavior skills, judgment, or problem solving. If these impairments are significant enough to affect a student's educational performance, he or she can qualify for special education services and accommodations. It is important to note that TBI does not include brain problems that began during or before birth, are hereditary, or are degenerative.

Common Characteristics

Students with TBI may have problems with any combination of the following:

  • Short-term and long-term memory
  • Interacting with peers
  • Concentrating
  • Taking tests
  • Following directions with multiple steps
  • Learning new skills

Many students with TBI are evaluated and eventually qualify for special education services and accommodations. This was the case with Beth as she returned to school. Beth was struggling like she never had before. She often lost track of what she was supposed to be doing and could be found staring at her paper, unable to begin an assignment. Her teachers found that she rarely followed directions the first time and was constantly watching her peers to try and figure out what was going on. She was skipping critical steps in her math work, forgetting what the teacher said earlier in the day, and struggling to understand new vocabulary words.

Accommodations

After observation, data collection, and formal evaluations, Beth was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, which was impacting her educational performance. Beth, her parents, and her teachers all participated in writing her individualized education plan (IEP) that included accommodations and teaching strategies to help Beth function in the classroom.

Some of these accommodations included:

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