Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)



Acquired brain injuries are injuries to the brain that occur after birth, resulting in deterioration of a person’s cognitive, physical, emotional or independent functioning. They can be caused by:

  1. Trauma – such as:
  • motor vehicle accidents
  • accidents and falls
  • assaults or physical abuse
  1. Non-traumatic causes -such as:
  • brain infections and inflammatory diseases
  • stroke
  • substance abuse
  • hypoxia or lack of oxygen to the brain.


It may take time to identify the full effects of ABI and how severely this will impact a person’s life. The severity of ABI depends on the:

  • length of Post Traumatic Amnesia (PTA) experienced. This is the time after injury when the patient is confused, disoriented and has poor memory
  • level and length of any coma

The recovery rate is different for each person and usually continues for many years.


Impact at school

Each instance is unique. The following is not an exhaustive list of impacts.

Area impacted Students may experience:

Learning and wellbeing – changes or difficulties with:

  • attention, concentration and cognitive fatigue
  • short and long-term memory
  • speed of information processing
  • problem solving, comprehension, dealing with complex information
  • judgment, monitoring and insight
  • decision-making and flexible thinking
  • reasoning and abstract thinking
  • organisation, planning and time management
  • acquisition of new learning
  • academic learning

Physical abilities – sensory difficulties such as with vision and hearing

  • headaches and dizziness
  • fatigue and sleep disturbance
  • heart regulation problems such as a racing heartbeat for no reason
  • incontinence
  • muscle spasticity, seizures or paralysis
  • mobility changes
  • pain
  • difficulty with balance, hand-eye coordination, fine motor and gross motor skills.

Communication skills – aphasia which is difficulty in:

  • using words to express ideas
  • understanding the speech of other people
  • articulation and phonological disorders
  • verbal dyspraxia which is difficulty in:
  • co-ordinating the mouth to speak
  • sequencing language
  • difficulty finding words

Social skills – difficulties with behaviour and personality changes including:

  • behaving inappropriately
  • making and keeping friends
  • poor or declining self-care skills  
  • Classroom Strategies
  • Close liaison with parents
  • Close liaison with all medical professionals
  • Keep instructions uncomplicated and brief
  • Repeat any instructions in exactly the same way
  • Regularly check back understanding
  • Provide additional individual explanation
  • Structure all work and give clear start points
  • Break down all information into clear steps
  • Provide organisational check lists, schedules for project/lesson, written cues
  • Give memory prompts and reminders
  • Promote the student using their own memory aids – highlighting, post-its
  • Teach the student to categorize or group information
  • Clearly define any course requirements, deadlines, homework, ensure recorded
  • Use visual information, provide handouts
  • Create regularly opportunities to revisit previously learned information
  • Provide explicit links between existing and new information
  • Frequently repeat and summarise information being given
  • Give additional processing time
  • Provide alternative ways for tasks to be completed
  • Introduce new concepts and vocabulary explicitly
  • Provide an overview and understanding of the forth coming learning journey
  • Where possible focus on content, structure, organisation and ideas
  • Provide rest-breaks
  • Regularly reward effort
  • See behaviour outbursts as communication and support the students understanding of a task and refocus them on it
  • Create clear classroom routines, especially for:
  • the way a lesson begins
  • the way a lesson finishes
  • the way homework is given
  • the way activities are started
  • the way activities are finished
  • the way group-work is organised and roles within it