b) Injury - effect - behaviour - behaviour supportNext c)

i) Injury - effect - behaviour - strategies

People with an ABI have a brain injury.
The injury has an effect on the working of the brain.
The working of their brain affects their behaviour.
People working with people with an ABI have to manage behaviours.

Rules of thumb

1. Understand:

  • What is the injury?
  • What is the effect?
  • How is the effect expressed in behaviour?
  • What are strategies for managing the behaviours?

2. Get to know the person

3. Get to know what strategies work for this person.


One worker said:

As a result of his accident he is left with his residual left sided weakness. He has chronic pain in his left knee and that's with – they have tried to address that with surgery but it is more to do with his brain injury as opposed to actually his knee. Obviously his speech is still affected and his behaviour. His behaviour is the biggest element. He can be quite oppositional, he can be threatening. We have had occasions where we have had to call the police out because he has threatened to hurt people. He just doesn't understand the consequences of those behaviours and he just thinks about the immediate gratification of needs.



ii) Clip 5. Gabby : Before and After (2min 30 sec)

Gabby describing how she was before the accident and how she is now .



Answer the following question:

What are some of the before and after differences for Gabby?
   Check your answers here

Lot more relaxed with the future. I don't feel as stressed about am I going in the right directions.

Now focussed on small things. The small things are a big thing - switch off the light, open a cupboard door.

Don't feel a sense of loss - I think that is part of the brain injury.

Friends find not having a sense of loss strange to comprehend.

Learnt patience.

Mobility issues.


iii) Cognitive and behavioural changes - problems arising - support strategies

Screen 1 is an overview. Screens 2, 3 and 4 have specific examples.

SLIDES: To pause: Hover mouse over slide. To continue: move mouse off slide.
To go to a specific slide: Click on slide numbers below.

iv) Strategies for cognitive impairments  

These are typical cognitive impairments, problems arising and management strategies.

There are also strategies for other changes e.g. mobility, communication, sexuality.

More strategies can be found in the following modules on the www.TBIStaffTraining web site:
These strategies would be appropriate for many types of ABI (in addition to TBI).

2: Communication
3: Promoting skills for independence
4: Understanding and managing cognitive changes following an TBI
5: Understanding and managing behaviour Changes following an TBI
6: Sexuality after an TBI : issues and strategies
9. Mobility

Cognitive Impairment

Problems arising

Management strategies

Attention and Concentration

  • have difficulty concentrating
  • being distractible
  • finding it hard to cope with more than one thing at once
  • getting bored quickly
  • switch off and appear not to listen
  • not remembering what others have said
  • not completing things they start
  • changing the subject often
  • reduce distractions (e.g. noise, other people)
  • use short, simple sentences
  • encourage the person to stay with the activity for longer periods
  • change activities when necessary
  • when distracted, interrupt and bring back to task
  • give reminders of next step
  • keep to a routine

Speed of information processing

  • taking longer to complete tasks
  • unable to keep track of lengthy conversations and instructions
  • make allowances and give the person extra time
  • present information slowly
  • present information in chunks
  • present one thing at a time
  • check that the person is keeping up


  • having an overall reduced ability to cope
  • getting irritable and distressed
  • having other problems exacerbated
  • encourage the person to take rest breaks
  • schedule more demanding tasks when the person is at their best (often mornings)


  • finding it hard to remember new things
  • forgetting appointments
  • forgetting things people say
  • frequently losing things
  • give reminders
  • repeat information when necessary
  • encourage person to rehearse and repeat information
  • encourage use of external reminders, i.e. diaries, post-it notes
  • structure a routine by breaking tasks into small steps
  • keep belongings in regular places

Problem solving

  • reduced ability to find solutions to problems
  • train the person to approach new tasks in a systematic manner, e.g. break the task into small parts
  • reduce the demands made on the person
  • help educate the family and others about the person's problems
  • avoid giving the person open-ended tasks

Planning and

  • having difficulty working out the steps involved in a task
  • not considering the end result of their actions
  • having trouble organising their thoughts and explaining things to others
  • avoid becoming frustrated with the person
  • give prompts for the following steps
  • provide a written list which outlines the steps in order

Rigid and
concrete thinking

  • taking statements literally
  • insensitive and unable to consider feelings of others
  • having a simplistic understanding of emotions
  • being resistant to change
  • keeping doing things incorrectly despite feedback
  • use simple and direct language, avoid abstract terms
  • avoid using hints or sarcastic humour
  • encourage person to imagine how they would feel in other situations
  • explain any change in routine in advance, giving reasons


  • being impulsive and act without thinking of consequences
  • making rash decisions
  • acting inappropriately toward people (including sexually)
  • behaving in a silly, flippant or childish way
  • disclosing personal information too freely
  • give immediate feedback, briefly
    asking person to stop behaviour
    and explain why
  • provide appropriate external
    controls e.g. over finances
  • remind person of the sensitive
    nature of some information,
    giving clear examples
  • ignore the behaviour where

Reduced self-control

  • losing temper quickly
  • being physically/verbally abusive
  • having a lower frustration tolerance
  • distract or remove the person from anger-provoking situation
  • withdraw attention when appropriate
  • try not to escalate the situation by shouting back
  • identify anger-provoking triggers and avoid when possible

Egocentricity and

  • not considering consequences of their behaviour on others
  • being unable to 'put themselves in someone else's shoes'
  • appearing selfish to others
  • not appreciating carers
  • try to explain situation from another's or your point of view
  • try not to take offence, understand why the person is like that

Emotional lability

  • laughing and crying inappropriately
  • changing moods quickly
  • try to identify triggers which result in mood swings
  • be prepared for changes by having alternative plans


  • talking about the same topic repeatedly
  • returning to the preferred topic when doing something else
  • remind person gently they've told you the information before
  • distract the person back to the preferred activity
  • ignore, as much as possible, future references to the topic
  • try not to get into arguments, walk away if you're getting irritated

Reduced insight

  • being unaware of both cognitive and physical limitations
  • having unrealistic goals, plans and expectations
  • resisting efforts of carer/staff
  • not realising that they have made errors because they haven't checked their work
  • gently remind person of deficits
  • explain why proposed action is useful, reason through the steps
  • point out possible negative consequences of person's unrealistic plans
  • place external limitations where necessary (e.g. removal of driver's licence/access to car)
  • gradually expose person to reality testing experiences

Poor self monitoring

  • not realising that they are 'hogging' conversations
  • being verbose and keep talking when others are no longer interested
  • encourage them to check over their work
  • use signals, agreed in advance, to let them know they're talking too much
  • encourage turn-taking in conversation
  • use external aids, e.g. graphs and tables to help the person monitor their behaviour

Reduced social

  • interacting poorly with others because of all the above problems
  • losing their ability to relate well with others
  • not picking up the usual social cues (e.g. looking at watch)
  • teach specific strategies like maintaining eye contact, asking questions of others, turn taking in conversation
  • try to encourage awareness of others' reactions


  • appearing to have no motivation and seem apathetic
  • not acting until prompted
  • not completing tasks
  • knowing how to do something, but not doing it spontaneously
  • encourage person to commence activity
  • prompt first step of the task
  • try to find things that are most interesting for the person
  • reward and encourage any self-initiated activity and persistence
  • accept that the person may need less activity to keep them occupied and happy


  • complaining of boredom and be
    restless and agitated
  • remind person of activities they usually enjoy
  • promote physical activity which may expend some energy


(c) Copyright - See: Module 4: Understanding and managing cognitive changes following an TBI -

v) Case study Questions

Read the following case study and then answer the questions below.

This 16-year-old male suffered a severe traumatic brain injury and facial fractures in a motor vehicle accident. His rehabilitation progressed well and he returned to live in the family home. A year after his injury he planned to return to school to do his HSC and eventually go to University, as he had always intended to do.

A review neuropsychological assessment was conducted around the same time.

On interview the young man complained that he forgets things he has been told, needs to go over and over information to remember it, needs to reread paragraphs to be able to understand what he is reading, and has difficulty following conversations.

The assessment found:

  • he had a very short span of attention
  • he could not divide attention (unable to follow more than one thing at a time)
  • his processing speed was slow
  • new learning was poor, information needed to be repeated
  • he did not recall much after a delay
  • he had difficulties remembering if his learning was interrupted by another task or different information
  • he was disorganised and did not plan how to work things out
  • some concrete reasoning
  • rapid fatigue when maintaining mental effort

He also demonstrated:

  • general problem solving skills at an appropriate level
  • excellent arithmetical ability
  • good adaptive skills, so could modify what he was doing to meet change and utilise feedback
  • he was able to recognise more information than he was able to recall
  • some insight towards his cognitive difficulties
  • an eagerness to get into University (which may be good or bad).

(c) Copyright - See: Module 4: Understanding and managing cognitive changes following an TBI -


Answer the following questions:

What strategies could you suggest to assist this young man with managing his HSC studies?

Name three strategies for each of :

Strategies he could do himself,
Strategies the school might be able to provide, and
Strategies that are changes that may be needed at home

   Check your answers: Strategies that he could do himself

  • Complete HSC studies over two to five years. Part-time study program at TAFE.
  • Write all important information down
  • Make use of a diary – aid with memory and organising self
  • Follow a weekly timetable – classes, breaks, study, travel, leisure time
  • Review small amounts of work/information often
  • Keep subject notes well organised
  • Ask questions
  • Study one subject at a time and have a break between changing topics
  • Prepare before classes, complete set readings
  • Limit distractions when trying to study (fatigue, hunger, drugs and alcohol).

   Check your answers: Strategies that the school might provide

  • Sit at front of class to keep focus
  • Use a note taker or a tape recorder in classes (sometimes class notes are available)
  • Tutor to assist with interpreting assignments and developing a framework for generating and organising answers
  • Extra time during examinations to allow for slow processing or rest breaks
  • Possibly splitting up an exam over two sessions
  • Having a separate room for examinations so won't be interrupted.

   Check your answers: Strategies that may be needed at home

  • Keep study space tidy and well organised
  • Have 'special places' for items (pens, rulers, keys, wallet, phone, diary)
  • Have a quiet place to study, somewhere interruptions are unlikely
  • Limit distractions when trying to study (TV, radio, other people, mobile phone).