Challenges of attending college with traumatic brain injury

College Student in Wheelchair

Young people (15-19) are at particular risk for traumatic brain injury. Although these young TBI survivors often recover enough to attend college, they do so having to face challenges in cognition, social skills, and daily living.

A recent research study documented the challenges and triumphs of four college students who had suffered a severe traumatic brain injury from between 4 and 10 years earlier. Although each student managed their challenges in slightly different ways, there were themes common to all four.

One common theme was the use of formal accommodation to offset cognitive and motor difficulties. Accommodation requests came in the form of extended time and separate areas to take exams, third-party note takers or notes from the professor, and priority registration.

Determination to complete goals was another common theme of the four survivors. This determination came not only from each student's perseverance, but their willingness to engage family, friends, and professionals to assist in the completion of their goals.

Additionally, the students made recommendations for others in the same position:

  1. Take smaller course loads
  2. Talk to teachers at the beginning of each course
  3. Make use of the available accommodations and support systems
  4. Use planners, study guides, handouts

While it is often not expected of young survivors of a severe TBI to finish high school much less progress to college, these case studies showed that-with perseverance and accommodation-college is an attainable goal.

Hux K, Bush E, Zickefoose S, et al. Exploring the study skills and accommodations used by college student survivors of traumatic brain injury. Brain Injury. (January 2010).