In the Classroom: Academic Accommodations to Minimize Frustration and Encourage Success

The Center on Brain Injury Research and Training, University of Oregon
In the Classroom: Academic Accommodations to Minimize Frustration and Encourage Success

Description of the Problem

Aggressive or confrontational behavior, whether physical or verbal, is disruptive to the daily classroom routine, making it difficult for all to learn, and in the worst cases can cause risks to the health and safety of the student and to others. Uncontrolled behavioral difficulties commonly result in lost opportunities to develop positive relationships with others, and can result in removal from the classroom.


Students with TBI can be easily frustrated with academic tasks. Many students with brain injury get upset with the perceived disparity between what they could do prior to injury and what they can do after their injury. They also have difficulty with the differences between their abilities and those of their peers. The combination of the neurological effects of brain injury and the feelings of loss and frustration often result in difficulties controlling behavior when under stress, as is the case when academic work is challenging.


Provide instruction that minimizes errors, which can provoke negative behaviors and interfere with learning. In addition, teach strategies for identifying and managing situations that might result in problems before they emerge.


  • Start each activity with a task the student can do successfully.
  • Break larger tasks into smaller steps to create small successes along the way.
  • For each task, use a systematic process:
    • Provide clear examples of what each step of the task will require in order to complete it successfully.
    • Model the entire sequence of steps, step-by-step.
    • Verbally review the steps with the student and have him/her verbalize each step before beginning.
    • Provide specific and meaningful feedback after the student completes each step.
    • Ask the student how they thought they did and if they need any help.
    • Continually re-evaluate, with the student, the next set of achievable steps
  • Encourage self-monitoring. Frequently ask the student:
    • How do you think you are doing?
    • What’s working or not working for you?
    • Is this task easy, difficult or just right for you?
    • When do you think you will need help?
  • Make a plan for help including how everyone will know the student needs help and what exactly help will look like.
  • Establish minimum work requirements and steps for achieving goals in collaboration with the student. Specific time limits, such as “You must complete five problems in ten minutes” tend to generate oppositional responses. Instead, ask the student, “How many problems do you think you can complete in ten minutes?” Then re-evaluate this goal and provide positive support.
  • Teach students phrases they can use as escape valves when they feel pressured. (I need a break; I’m starting to feel overwhelmed) and then reward students for using them rather than waiting until they start losing control.
  • Make use of all available resources — counseling, physical tools such as organizers, support staff — to accommodate the student’s other brain-injury-related challenges and thereby minimize the frustration and discouragement that frequently get acted out in aggressive ways.
Posted on BrainLine August 14, 2013.

In The Classroom, Copyright 2012, supported by Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation
Research (NIDRR) grant #H133B090010, is the sole responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of ODE or
NIDRR. Adapted from LEARNet, a program of the Brain Injury Association of New York State, and funded by the Developmental Disabilities Planning
Council. Copyright 2006, by the Brain Injury Association of New York State. Used with permission.

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Comments (1)

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Is there anything research/survey result on "Frustration among students"?