Disability Services for Students

302 Memorial Union Univeristy of Rhode Island Kingston, RI 02881


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Disability Due to Head Trauma

(Includes definition, how disability affects participation, and helpful strategies.)


This acquired disability occurs as a result of injuries sustained to the brain characterized by swelling and bruising of tissue as a direct outcome of sudden increased movement within the skull, torn nerve fibers and brain stem trauma.

“The degree and type of cognitive impairments and behavioral disturbances depend on the location and extent of the brain injury. A variety of behavioral symptoms may be evident, with or without the presence of motor or sensory deficits. These symptoms include attentional problems, irritability , anxiety, depression, apathy, increased aggression, or other changes in personality.” (DSM-IV, p. 148).

How post head trauma characteristics may affect student participation:

Decreased attention span

Frustration with schoolwork or task performance that posed no problem before injury

Poor information retrieval

Difficulty in acquisition of new knowledge

Possibility of exhibiting inappropriate or impulsive actions

Longer processing time requirement

Lowered motivation, organization and comprehension

Difficulty with concentration and memorization

Helpful strategies for instructing students with post head trauma characteristics:

Help students to follow lectures with three steps: >preview>lecture>review.

Provide lecture outlines and other handouts.

Use a multi-sensory approach when providing information to students. Increased learning can occur when material is presented simultaneously in a variety of ways, e.g. visual imagesĀ withauditory descriptions.

Gain student’s attention when highlighting significant points by using eye contact, voice inflection, and body gesturing.

Provide concrete examples and practical applications of material whenever possible.

Review important points several times during the lecture.

Give assignments both orally and in written format to avoid confusion.

Develop a positive student-teacher relationship.

Increase one on one instruction outside of class.

Teach mnemonics for memory assistance.

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