If You Suspect a Student Has a TBI

Center on Brain Injury Research and Training
If You Suspect a Student has a TBI

If you think one of your students has a traumatic brain injury, the following are some common difficulties to look for:


  • How does the student follow directions?
  • What types of directions are most easily followed?
    • Spoken directions
    • Written or visual directions
  • How much structure does the student need to follow directions?
  • Does the student often forget verbal directions? Even with reminders?
  • How is the student’s vocabulary, rate of speech, grammar and ability to respond to questions?
  • What is the student’s ability to carry on a conversation (fluency, ability to track conversation and respond appropriately?
  • How are the student’s listening skills? (interrupting the class, asks for repetition of information previously presented or directions multiple times)


  • Does the student become confused, irritated or lost changing tasks within the classroom?
  • Does the student become physically lost changing classes – even if it is a familiar route?
  • How are the student’s organizational abilities?


  • Does the student show signs of fatigue or irritability?
  • How is the student’s dress & hygiene?
  • What is the student’s rate of body movements? (slow, halting, rapid or impulsive).
  • How are the student’s spatial skills? (getting lost, misreaching)
  • What are the student’s motor mannerisms (balance, muscle tone, restlessness)


  • Does the student begin and end assignments independently?
    • Are cues needed?
    • What cues are needed?
  • Does the student stay on task? How long? Under what circumstances?
    • Does the student need cues or structure to stay on task?
  • Are assignments incomplete or do they have errors that appear to be careless?


  • How is the student’s judgment about safety and social situations?
  • How is the student’s affect (flattened, aroused, depressed, under responsive)?


  • Does the student have difficulty knowing what to pay attention to when there are several distractions?
  • How is the student’s attention span? (attentive, distractible, variable throughout the day)
  • Does the student have difficulty understanding new concepts in a specific academic area?
  • Is the student’s rate of learning and performance slow or reduced?
  • How is the student’s behavior (social appropriateness and ability to modify behavior to fit the situation)?
  • What is the student’s memory for new learning?
    Posted on BrainLine June 21, 2010.

    Information for this page was adapted from Missouri Department of Education (1987) & Sattler (1998).
    Clinical and Forensic Interviewing of Children and Families p. 634.

    From the Center on Brain Injury Research and Training. Reprinted with permission.