Understanding an Individual Student

Verifying a Head Injury

It may not be standard to obtain a medical history on ABE students when they enroll. Brain injury is not something a teacher should try to diagnose. It is best to request documentation from the student or ask for a release to request it on his or her behalf from a healthcare provider. Detailed medical records are not necessary or even appropriate; but a confirmation of diagnosis will be valuable. It is also important to have up-to-date records on vision and hearing.Note that Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is typically labeled mild, moderate, or severe; concussion is also labeled mild, moderate, or severe.

General Questions to Explore for Possible TBI

  1. Have you ever hurt your head or been told you hurt your head?
  2. Often the answer may be no, even when it’s true. Possibly because the person doesn’t remember, had a lot of bumps on the head they laughed off, or feels self conscious reporting it. If appropriate, the following question may be asked: Are you sure you never hit your head or fell or had someone knock you on the head in a way that made you see stars or feel confused or even black out?

When the answer is no, you can move on. However, often the second question will elicit recall, either of an event the person remembers or what someone else told them.

When they can only remember that someone else reported a head injury but they know none of the details, ask if they can get more information from the source. They may or may not be willing, even when you explain why you want to know — that it will help you help them do the best they can in school.

If a brain injury is confirmed, you may want to ask the following questions.

  1. How do you learn best? (May need to provide cues, like reading on your own, hands-on, discussing with others)
  2. What school subjects were easier for you? Which were hardest?
  3. When during the day or week do you feel your best? (helps anticipate fatigue)
  4. Do you have any problem remembering things? What do you do to help you remember?
  5. Do you have a hard time getting started on a task? …if it’s something you really enjoy? …if it’s something someone else has asked you to do?
  6. If you get stuck, what do you do?
  7. What kinds of things are distracting to you? How do you avoid them?
  8. [If not yet mentioned:] Do you have any problem with certain noises or bright lights?
  9. Do you think it will be hard to study at home?
  10. What things tend to upset you?
  11. Did you have any trouble finding the classroom?
  12. Who can help with assignments outside of class?
  13. How much time do you think you can spend each week doing homework? (Set up expectation they may need to do work outside of class to keep up.)

HELPS is a brief screening tool for brain injury. This tool is designed to be used by professionals whose field of practice is not brain injury. This screening tool is available in PDF by clicking here.

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