Eastern Michigan University

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is damage to the brain that occurs when the head is hit by an outside force, resulting in mild, moderate, or severe symptoms. TBI may result form either a closed head injury (object hits, but does not penetrate the skull) or a penetrating head injury (object breaks through the skull). Causes of TBI often include motor vehicle accidents, being struck by objects, falls, and assaults.

Students with Traumatic Brain Injuries may exhibit or experience the following:
  • Changes in cognitive functioning, emotional regulation, memory, executive functions such as planning, etc.
  • Frustration and sadness when student compares current memory and functioning with previous capabilities
  • Complications that may be evolving, short- or long-term
  • At risk for long-term medical conditions such as epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease
Impact of the Environment on the Disability

Students with Traumatic Brain Injury will likely perform best in courses that incorporate the following elements, which may also benefit other students:

  • Administering exams in smaller increments so that students with TBI can focus on a smaller amount of material at one time
  • Classroom and testing environment that minimizes distractions and recognizes that all students process information differently, some requiring more or less time.More than one format of assessing students' knowledge of course content: examinations, in-class participation, presentations, homework, papers, projects, etc.
  • Regularly scheduled office hours - the Disability Resource Center encourages students with TBI to seek out their faculty during regularly scheduled office hours to clarify instructions and provide repetition of the material that was taught in class.
  • Structure, organization, and consistent deadlines
  • Syllabi containing structured expectations and clearly defined course requirements
  • Notes provided in advance of class

When the environment and the disability are not compatible, students with TBI commonly receive any or all of the following accommodations:

  • Extended time for testing due to difficulties with memory retrieval and/or concentration
  • Distraction-free testing room, if distractibility is present
  • Instructor's consideration of note card use due to impaired memory
  • Ability to record lectures and/or use of a volunteer note taker to ensure that all lecture details are captured
Sources and Additional Information