The term traumatic brain injury (TBI) is one of the thirteen disability categories which are defined under the public law Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). It is a very specific category which does not include those children born with a brain injury or one that occurs during the birth process. According to the federal law, TBI is defined as “…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 child’s educational performance. The term 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; psycho-social behavior; physical functions; information processing; and speech. The term does not apply to brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative, or to brain injuries induces by birth trauma.” [34 Code of Federal Regulations &300.8 (c) (12)].
Approximately 1.7 million people receive traumatic brain injuries every year with many of those victims being children under the age of 19. This type of injury can change how the child acts, moves and thinks. A traumatic brain injury can also change how a student learns and behaves in the school setting. The term TBI is used for various head injuries which can cause changes in one or more of the following areas:
- thinking and reasoning
- understanding words
- remembering things
- paying attention
- solving problems
- thinking abstractly
- behaving in an age appropriate manner
- walking and other physical activities
- seeing and/or hearing
Depending on the location of the brain injury and the severity of the injury, children with TBI may have one or more difficulties including physical disabilities, thinking difficulties and social/behavioral/emotional problems. Changes in the victim can range from mild to severe which makes it often difficult to predict how the child will recover from their injury. Early and on-going help will make a difference in recovery. As the child grows and matures, new problems may arise since the brain must now be used in new and different ways. Sometimes parents and educators do not attribute the student’s learning problems to their earlier injury but it is typically the cause.
IDEA requires that all children suspected of having a disability be evaluated with no cost to their parents to determine if they do have a disability and require special services. Those special services include early intervention which is a system of services to support infants and toddlers (before age 3) as well as their families according to the ability to pay. Once the child reaches the age of 3, special education and related services are available through the public school system through age 21 at no cost to the family. For more information and assistance, please contact your local school district.