Acquired Brain Injury

This information has moved to the new Policy and Advisory Library (PAL). The content is an archive only and is no longer being maintained. For accurate advice visit PAL.

Purpose of this policy

To ensure schools support students with Acquired Brain Injury (ABI).

Prerequisite policy

See: Health Care Needs.


Schools must implement strategies to assist students with ABI and ensure that they have a Student Health Support Plan.


Acquired brain injuries are injuries to the brain that:

  • occur after birth resulting in deterioration of a person’s cognitive, physical, emotional or independent functioning
  • can be caused by trauma such as:
    • motor vehicle accidents
    • accidents and falls
    • assaults or physical abuse
  • can have non-traumatic causes such as:
    • brain infections and inflammatory diseases
    • stroke
    • substance abuse
    • hypoxia or lack of oxygen to the brain.


It may take time to identify the full effects of ABI and how severely this will impact a person’s life. 

The severity of ABI depends on the:

  • length of Post Traumatic Amnesia (PTA) experienced. This is the time after injury when the patient is confused, disoriented and has poor memory
  • level and length of coma.

The recovery rate is different for each person and usually continues for many years.

Impact at school

Each instance is unique.  The following is not an exhaustive list of impacts.

Area impactedStudents may experience

Learning and wellbeing

changes or difficulties with:

  • attention, concentration and cognitive fatigue
  • short and long-term memory
  • speed of information processing
  • problem solving, comprehension, dealing with complex information
  • judgment, monitoring and insight
  • decision-making and flexible thinking
  • reasoning and abstract thinking
  • organisation, planning and time management
  • acquisition of new learning
  • academic learning.

Physical abilities

  • sensory difficulties such as with vision and hearing
  • headaches and dizziness
  • fatigue and sleep disturbance
  • heart regulation problems such as a racing heartbeat for no reason
  • incontinence
  • muscle spasticity, seizures or paralysis
  • mobility changes
  • pain
  • difficulty with balance, hand-eye coordination, fine motor and gross motor skills.

Communication skills

  • aphasia which is difficulty in:
    - using words to express ideas
    - understanding the speech of other people
  • articulation and phonological disorders
  • verbal dyspraxia which is difficulty in:
    - co-ordinating the mouth to speak
    - sequencing language
  • difficulty finding words.

Note: Some students may need support through alternative and augmentative communication to supplement their communication skills.

Social skills

difficulties with behaviour and personality changes including:

  • behaving inappropriately
  • making and keeping friends
  • poor or declining self care skills.


Schools should ensure that medical advice is received from the student’s health practitioner ideally by completing the Department’s General Medical Advice Form – ABI.

This table describes how schools support students with ABI:

Activities including camps

With good planning students should be encouraged to participate in sporting and physical activities including camps.

The school should receive any extra medial information by the parents completing the Department’s Confidential Medical Information for School Council Approved School Excursions form.

Communicating with parents

Regularly communicate with the student’s parents about the student’s successes, development, changes and any health and education concerns.

Related policies

Other resources