Traumatic Brain Injury

Strategies for the Classroom and/or Home Setting

By: Kimberly Barr

Those with TBI most often have cognitive deficits which lead to communication deficits. These language deficits in return affect a child's ability to learn and/or interact socially (Barrwod, 2006). After TBI, children will need to relearn certain tasks and may even require life-long adaptations to help them successfully communicate. Because we learn through language, cognitive deficits can greatly affect a child's success in school and overall communication in daily life. The difficulty which can occur from learning through language can make it appear as though the child is not listening (Receptive Language, 2015). Due to the underlying nature of these language deficits, strategies for the home and classroom setting should mostly be cognitively based. TBI can result in a wide range of deficits affecting language. This flyer will focus on receptive language and expressive language and will contain links which will lead to further information on other possible deficits.

Receptive Language Strategies for the Home and Classroom:

Use everyday activities:

1. Enrich the language environment by describing you actions, labeling things, reading aloud together, etc.

2. Help the child follow a conversation and/or directions by using shorter sentences with more time in between them, reduce vocabulary, and having the child rephrase what you said.

Change the environment:

3. Use specific and clear commands. Do not use questions as commands such as "why is your coat on the floor?". Instead say, "Pick up your coat and hang it up".

4. Get the child's attention before you begin to speak.

5. Eliminate distractions when speaking with the child.

6. Use cues such as hand gestures and facial expressions to help the child understand.

7. Help the child become familiar with material but putting it in context (i.e. field trip, creating a poster, reviewing new vocabulary) before learning.

Teach new skills:

8. Teach the child to prepare for new learning by first reading the chapters summary and chapter questions.

9. Provide the child with visual representations of complex written concepts.

10. Teach the child to create visual images of new concepts instead of learning verbal explanations.

11. Instead of providing complex verbal explanations, provide games with visual representations.

( Receptive Language, 2015)

Expressive Language Strategies for the Home and Classroom:

Use everyday activities:

1. Praise the child with specific feed back.

2. Ask open-ended questions to encourage more than one-word answers.

3.Do not have important conversations when the child is tired or already performing a task.

4. Practice topic maintenance by picking a specific topic to talk about and sticking with it for several turns.

5.Do not rush the child to finish his/her thoughts

6. Play games to help build vocabulary. For example, "lets name all the animals we see on our walk"

Change the environment:

7.Use peer modeling to help the child learn turn taking and other social skills.

8. Repeat confusing parts of the child's conversation and help them clarify if possible.

9.Reduce any anxiety caused by the environment which can cause more problems with expressive language.

Teach new skills:

10. Help increase fluency by having the child rehearse part in a play or teach to a younger child.

11. Use role play to practice real life situations in which the child may struggle.

12. Practice oral presentations with a tape recorder.

13. Practice organizing thoughts before speaking. For example, have the child think to him/herself, "what do I want to say first, what do I want to say next, what do I want to say last?"

(Expressive Language, 2015)

*Click on the following link for more detailed information and to find links which address strategies for other cognitive, social, and emotional deficits from TBI.


Dise-Lewis, J., Calvery, M., & Lewis, H. (2015). BrainSTARS: Expressive Language. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2015, from

Dise-Lewis, J., Calvery, M., & Lewis, H. (2015). BrainSTARS: Receptive Language. Retrieved April 18, 2015, from