Students with
Traumatic Brain Injuries

at Florida Atlantic University

An Informational Brochure from the
Office for Students with Disabilities
Division of Student Affairs



Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is defined as an injury to the brain caused by external force to the skull. Although there are often physical manifestations of the injury, many times the effects are more subtle cognitive, emotional and/or social changes. Most moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries lead to long-standing problems with deficits in communication, language functioning, visual motor skills, attention and/or memory. The student with a brain injury who has no obvious physical problems will often appear to be able to resume a normal course of study; however, cognitive and/or behavioral changes may necessitate some accommodations to the student’s educational programming.


As veterans return from active duty, college campuses will see an increased number of students with TBI. Mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) has been designated as the “signature” disability from the current war. The effects of MTBI, while more subtle and easily camouflaged, can be as devastating to an individual’s daily life as a more severe brain injury.





  • Memory loss (short and long term)
  • Slowed thought processing
  • Deficits in sensory arousal, attention, and concentration
  • Difficulty with problem-solving
  • Problems in initiating, planning and completing action
  • Impaired judgment
  • Inability to recognize cognitive deficits
  • Spatial disorientation
  • Difficulty with use of language


  • Anxiety and depression
  • Mood swings
  • Denial
  • Inappropriate behaviors
  • Impulsivity
  • Egocentricity
  • Agitation
  • Feelings of isolation
  • Reduced endurance
  • Rigidity
  • Lack of motivation
  • Suicidal ideation


  • Paralysis or weakness affecting some or most of the body
  • Seizures
  • Spasticity
  • Speech impairment
  • Visual impairment
  • Loss of taste and/or smell
  • Fatigue

No individual with a brain injury will possess all of the above characteristics. The symptoms presented and their severity will depend on a variety of factors, including portion of the brain damaged, extent of the injury, age at time of injury and duration of time since the injury. Full recovery is rare and prognosis for partial recovery can vary greatly.



  • Loss of consciousness is necessary for TBI to occur
  • “Mild” or “Minor” means insignificant
  • Certain cases of TBI are not that serious because they manifest “only in psychological issues”
  • A direct blow to the head is necessary to sustain a brain injury



  • Provide a detailed course syllabus with a clear explanation of course expectations and adhere to it as closely as possible.
  • Start each class with an outline of material to be covered and summarize key points at the end.
  • Utilize group discussion and visual supports (e.g., graphs, charts, lists, pictures) rather than straight lecture format as much as possible.
  • Repeat or rephrase important points.
  • When asking questions in class, allow extra “wait time” before expecting a response from the student.
  • Give instructions in both verbal and written form. Encourage the student to ask for clarification and rephrase instructions as needed.
  • If certain behaviors (e.g., perseveration on a discussion topic, calling out answers) are problematic, it may be helpful to consult with the OSD regarding ways to alleviate these concerns.



To be eligible for academic accommodations at Florida Atlantic University, a student must apply for services from the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD). Academic accommodations are determined based on self-report of the disability and effective prior accommodations; observation and interaction with OSD counselor, as well as disability documentation submitted by the student. The documentation must be in the form of a neuropsychological evaluation conducted by a licensed psychologist, neuropsychologist or other practicioners qualified to conduct such an evaluation. The evaluation must address the following areas and should include anticipated effects of the student’s functional limitations within the academic setting as well as suggestions for accommodating the student:

    The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) and the Woodcock Johnson Test of Cognitive Abilities are two examples of tests of aptitude.
    Current levels of academic functioning in all aspects of reading, mathematics, and written language are required. The Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT) is NOT a comprehensive measure of achievement and is therefore unacceptable .

The evaluation may also include the following: Bender-Gestalt, Halstead-Reitan Battery, Detroit Test of Psycholinguistic Ability, Wisconsin Card Sorting Test and/or Detroit Tests of Learning Aptitude-Adult. Standard scores and a clinical interview should be included in the evaluation.

The evaluation must have been conducted within the last five years or two years post injury; however, the OSD reserves the right to make modifications to this time frame.



After a student has submitted an Application for Support Services and appropriate documentation of a disability to the OSD, the student will meet with an OSD counselor for an intake interview. During the intake, the student will be asked to provide information about her or his experience of disability, barriers he or she has encountered, as well as effective and ineffective prior accommodations. Appropriate accommodations are then determined based on an interactive process between the student and OSD counselor.


The student may be eligible for one or more of the following accommodations:

  • Advocacy
  • Professor notification
  • Notetaking assistance
  • Audio recording of classes
  • Use of calculator/spellchecker
  • Exam adaptations (e.g., extended time to take exams, distraction-reduced setting, use of computer, alternate formats)
  • Time management, study skills and social skills training

These accommodations are necessary for ensuring complete access to, and full participation in, the educational process. Academic standards are not to be lowered, nor should there be an alteration in the essential nature of the course or degree requirements.

For more information:

Brain Injury Association of America


Note: Professors will be notified of the student’s approved accommodations in an OSD Letter of Notification presented by the student. If the student is not registered with the OSD, please refer her or him to the office.

 Last Modified 8/27/15