A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an injury to the brain caused by the head being hit by something or shaken violently. (The exact definition of TBI, according to special education law, is given below.) This injury can change how the person acts, moves, and thinks.

Anyone at anytime might be at risk for a TBI, the most common is from a fall or traffic accident.  Approximately 1.7 million people in the U.S. are hospitalized for a brain injury annually.

A traumatic brain injury can also change how a student learns and acts in school. The term TBI is used for head injuries that can cause changes in one or more areas, such as:

  • thinking and reasoning,
  • understanding words,
  • remembering things,
  • paying attention,
  • solving problems,
  • thinking abstractly,
  • talking,
  • behaving,
  • walking and other physical activities,
  • seeing and/or hearing, and
  • learning.

The term TBI is not used for a person who is born with a brain injury. It also is not used for brain injuries that happen during birth.

TBI can create difficulties at school that might not have been present before the injury. For instance, a student may experience fatigue and struggle with the ability to use a computer or concentrate for an extended period of time. The list above includes possible areas affected by TBI, but as with all disabilities, each person differs depending on the severity of the injury.

It’s important to remember that a student with a TBI may require an IEP or Section 504 plan in order to access an appropriate education. The request for evaluation should be made in writing explaining how the TBI affects the child as part of the child find process.  

According to the Utah State Board of Education special education rules, pages 53-54, , a traumatic brain injury means “an acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force, resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment, or both, that adversely affects a student’s educational performance. Traumatic brain injury applies to open or closed head injuries resulting in impairments in one or more areas, such as cognition; language; memory; attention; reasoning; abstract thinking; judgment; problem-solving; sensory, perceptual, and motor abilities; psychosocial behavior; physical functions; information processing; and speech, that affects a student’s educational performance. Traumatic brain injury does not apply to brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative, or to brain injuries induced by birth trauma.”

(Information adapted from the Center for Parent Information and Resources)

It’s very helpful to read more about traumatic brain injuries. The following are links to additional information:

Traumatic Brain Injury

The Center for Parent Information and Resources information page includes basic information about TBI, what parents and teachers can do and a variety of other resources.

Brain Injury Association of Utah (BIAU)

The Brain Injury Alliance of Utah, was established in 1984 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The Alliance is the only non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to education and support for the issues of prevention and recovery of brain injury in the state of Utah. In addition to resources and activities, low cost bike helmets are offered through this website.  

Heads Up

Maintained by the CDC, this site includes excellent information about how to prevent concussions and TBI including information for coaches, parents and professionals.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Information Page

Visit this site to learn what TBI is, treatments, prognosis, research that is being done, and organizations that you can contact.

Help Your Child Be Successful at School After a TBI

This fact sheet provided by the CDC gives basic ideas how to help your child to return to school after a TBI.

Traumatic Brain Injury

Medline Plus has excellent information about TBI, how it’s diagnosed, clinical trials, how to adjust to living with a TBI as well as videos.  


Brainline is a site dedicated to information on TBI and PTSD. An exxcellent article on understanding being a TBI survivor is here.

Traumatic Brain Injury

How a TBI can affect communication, speech and language and swallowing is discussed here and the role of speech language therapists.

Family Caregiving Alliance

Founded in the late 1970s, Family Caregiver Alliance is the first community-based nonprofit organization in the country to address the needs of families and friends providing long-term care for loved ones at home. This link connects to their page on TBI and caregiving.

Project IDEAL

This site’s page on TBI includes information about how TBI can affect education and also specific teaching strategies.

The IDEA’s Special Education Categories: Traumatic Brain Injury

TBI is explained on this brief You Tube video.