4 Essential Steps to Getting the Most Out of Support Tools

The Center on Brain Injury Research & Training
4 Essential Steps to Getting the Most Out of Support Tools

Support tools help individuals with brain injury compensate for the cognitive challenges that may occur after injury. Tools can assist memory, provide support for tasks, and create organizational structure. They can also promote independence and reduce confusion. The Center on Brain Injury Research & Training offers the following suggestions for how to teach, practice, and review selected support tools.

1. Choose the Right Tool

Talk with your family member to be clear about needs, skill level, preferences and budget before selecting any tool.
When selecting a tool consider:

  • Does it meet the family's needs?
  • Does it match the user's skill level?
  • Does it satisfy the user's likes and level of comfort?
  • Does it fit the family's budget?
  • Does it need to travel with the user or stay in one place?

2. Prepare, Teach and Practice

The process doesn't end once you and your family member have selected an appropriate tool. Simply handing a tool to a person with a brain injury may not help. Use the following process to prepare, teach and practice.


  • Learn how to use the tool yourself.
  • Write down the steps.


  • Tell and show how to use the tool one step at a time.
  • Offer the list of steps as a support.
  • Take a break and then review again.


  • Have your family member practice each step until he/she can complete it on his/her own, in the right order.
  • Try it out in every day situations.

3. Give it Time

Allow your family member plenty of time to try out the tool. It takes time to learn to use a support tool effectively and determine if it is the best tool for the intended task.

You may need to re-teach how to use the tool several times. There will be days when your family member looks like he or she has got it, and then the next day isn’t sure how to use the tool.

With time, teaching, practice, review and lots of patience your family member may find an appropriately selected tool to be a great support.

If the tool isn't working after giving it both time and effort, try something else. There is always something that works.

4. Review

As your family member tries the tool, periodically review the tool with them to determine how it is working, what more is needed, and what needs to be changed.

"How's the tablet working for you?"
"OK, but I can't remember how to set the alarm."
"Let's look at the Instructions and see if we can make them more clear."

In conclusion

Support tools can help your family member overcome difficulties related to brain injury. Learning to use a new tool can build confidence.

  • Choose the right tool: Be sure the tool meets your family member's needs, skills, preference, and budget.
  • Prepare, Teach and Practice: Tell and show each step. Have your family member complete each step until he/she can do it alone. Write a list of steps to use as a reference. Have your family member practice often.
  • Give it Time: Have your family member use the tool and give it time to work.
  • Review It: Talk often with your family member about how the tool is working. Make adjustments when necessary.

Learn More

There is always something new to learn about brain injury. The Center on Brain Injury Research & Training provides updated information and useful trainings to help you improve your skills to support someone with a brain injury.
Visit cbirt.org for additional help and resources >

Posted on BrainLine October 22, 2015.