Traumatic Brain Injury

What is Traumatic Brain Injury?

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is an "acquired" disability that is often hard to diagnose or realize as a teacher. TBI is not a person who is born with a brain injury or has suffered an injury during birth. TBI is an injury to the brain caused by shaking or a strike to the head. TBI is used to describe head injuries that can alter a person's reasoning, understanding, remembering, attention span, problem solving skills, abstract thinking, talking, behavior, physical activity, seeing, hearing, and/or learning.

Our nation’s special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines traumatic brain injury 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 term 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.” [34 Code of Federal Regulations §300.7(c)(12)]

Some Basic Facts

  • Each year, more than 1,000,000 million children suffer from brain injuries and approximately 30,000 of these result in lifelong disabilities.
  • 95 per 100,000 children suffer from TBI

My Experiences with TBI

One of the most difficult things about TBI is how difficult it is to recognize or diagnose without knowing the history of a child. My interest in this topic stems from having experience with teaching a brilliantly motivated student in my first year who suffered from a traumatic injury at a young age. He had a hard time with memory recall and also had a speech impediment. He also had very sudden mood swings and would react very sensitively to any sort of emotion. I only found out that he had a TBI as a child after speaking to his father. This was never included in his IEP. He was only classified as being LD. I often wondered about what he would have been like if he had never suffered the injury. He is a brilliantly motivated student who is very socially skilled in many ways. His tendencies to swing emotionally made it especially challenging to work with in a classroom environment. I found that the best way to work with him was after school on a one-on-one basis. He really showed me first hand his difficulty in learning. One minute he could respond to any question and solve any problem, the next minute he would completely forget what we went over. This process would repeat often and the best way to accommodate him was to give him the chance to work on something while it was "in his mind" at the time.

I included the topic of TBI because it could be something that might happen to a child at any point in his/her life. There is the possibility that a student might suffer from an injury and come back to school and their educational and emotional needs might suddenly change.

Created by: William Hale