Those with learning differences due to an acquired brain injury can use a variety of compensatory strategies to improve their educational performance. Often the greatest hurdle is coming to terms with the changes as on-going rather than "curable." Beneficial strategies may involve the consistent use of memory devices (calendar notebooks, note taking systems, etc.) and learning enhancement techniques (such as multiple encoding or mnemonics). Many of the approaches used by those with lifelong learning disabilities can also be useful for students with a brain injury. Santa Monica College has developed the Acquired Brain Injury Program to address the unique challenges of this type of disability and provide a supportive environment to re-enter the educational setting.
Common Needs for Students With a Brain Injury
Structure - Survivors of recent injuries often do not organize well. Returning to or entering school may provide a routine in which to practice organization skills and students will generally need additional coaching on how to adapt these skills within the academic arena.
Reduced Demands - Routines may need to be slowed down and modified to create a manageable work load. Reducing demands on the student with a head injury may involve substituting a less demanding class, altering response modes (such as oral vs. written responses), providing audio books, recording lectures, and/or providing extended time on exams. The student may need a reduced course load or classes that meet for shorter periods of time with content spread over more weeks of instruction.
Intervention - The poor judgment and memory problems of a student with a head injury may make supplemental instruction a necessary ingredient of the educational program. For the student, this could take the form of a planning and monitoring system which requires the ABI Specialist and the student to meet individually, set goals and report and evaluate progress. They may also be encouraged to enroll in skill building courses, which are short modules that focus on academic readiness. Often times, we find that students are not conspicuous before they begin to have serious educational problems, possibly misjudging their own deficits and accurate assessment of their need for help without direct intervention.