University of Minnesota Morris

Traumatic Brain Injury

Though not always visible and sometimes seemingly minor, brain injury is complex. It can cause physical, cognitive, social, and vocational changes that affect an individual for a short period of time or permanently. Depending on the extent and location of the injury, symptoms caused by a brain injury vary widely. Some common results are seizures, loss of balance or coordination, difficulty with speech, limited concentration, memory loss, and loss of organizational and reasoning skills.

Instructional Strategies for Faculty

Because of the varied and complex manifestations of traumatic brain injury, students with brain injuries often benefit from instructional strategies similar to those listed for other disabilities. The following strategies are suggested to enhance accessibility of course instruction, materials, and activities. They are general strategies designed to support individualized reasonable accommodations.

  • Keep instructions brief and as uncomplicated as possible.
  • Allow the student to tape-record lectures.
  • Use a routine (where applicable) like at the beginning of class clearly define the dates of exams, and when assignments are due; provide advance notice of any changes.
  • Provide handouts and visual aids.
  • Use more than one way to demonstrate or explain information.
  • Break information into small steps when teaching many new tasks in one lesson (state objectives, review previous lesson, summarize periodically).
  • Allow time for clarification of directions and essential information.
  • Provide study guides or review sheets for exams.
  • Provide alternative ways for the students to do tasks, such as dictations or oral presentations.
  • As the semester progresses, verbal reminders in class of impending deadlines (e.g. “Remember, the problem sets are due Friday”) are very helpful to students with traumatic brain injuries.
  • Whenever possible, start each lecture with a summary of material to be covered or provide a written outline. Broad margins and triple spacing on handouts enables students to take notes directly onto the outline, an aid to organization. Provide a review of the major points at the conclusion of each lecture.
  • Avoid making assignments only in oral form, since students with traumatic brain injuries may miss them. In addition to oral announcements, always write assignments on the board or pass them out in written form.
  • For large projects or long papers, students with traumatic brain injuries benefit from assistance with breaking the task down into its component parts and setting deadlines for each part.
  • Make every effort to make students feel comfortable if they disclose their disabilities to you. As with any student with a disability, don't press students to explain their disabilities if they do not wish to do so.
  • When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him or her in a one-on-one conversation or e-mail at an appropriate time (not in the middle of a lecture slide etc.).
  • Allow the student the same anonymity as other students (i.e. avoid pointing out the student or the alternative arrangements to the rest of the class).