Traumatic Brain Injury Eligibility

  • Guiding Principles

    When a student has experienced a Traumatic Brain Injury, our first priority for the student is to get well. Our supports will be designed to protect the health and welfare of the child as they transition back to school activities - focusing on the importance of the student not re-injuring their brain.

    Definition of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

    A Traumatic Brain Injury is 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 student’s educational performance.

    • TBI includes open or closed head injuries
    • TBI does not include brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative or brain injuries induced by birth trauma (these may be considered Acquired Brain Injuries, which do not currently qualify under the category of TBI) 

    It is important to have a team approach to managing a TBI case.

    • The team must include the school nurse and counselor
    • Other members of the team may include principal/assistant principal, instructional coordinator, school psychologist, classroom teacher, PE teacher 

    Ongoing data collection determines what the student’s day will look like, schedule changes, etc. - pay attention to fatigue, anxiety and physical complaints.

    It is important to make sure that we take our time to determine the plan to support a student’s return to school. This may mean a gradual step up through the circles of support from a TBI Support Plan (Return to Learn) to a 504 Plan to SPED eligibility. Not all students with a TBI will need a 504 Plan or Special Education.

    When students are well enough, we need to welcome them back with enthusiasm and care.

    Procedural Guidance

    When the school is notified that a student has experienced a Traumatic Brain Injury, if possible call a team meeting before the student’s re-entry to school. This ensures that the plan is determined by a group of people rather than just the counselor. Be sure to schedule this meeting to be prepared to have time to listen to the family story.

    When considering the needs of a student with a TBI, we should always think about the circles of support. In general, we would not move straight to a Special Education evaluation.

    • Start with a support plan (Return to Learn Protocol)
    • If the student needs more intensive accommodations for an extended period of time, the team can consider a 504 Plan
    • If the student will need long term supports and specially designed instruction to learn new skills and recover from a TBI, the team can consider a special education evaluation

    The Columbia Regional Program (CRP) provides resources for evaluation and support for students who have experienced a Traumatic Brain Injury. Contact your Special Education Instructional Coordinator (SPED IC) to complete the CRP referral form. 

    Eligibility Process

    1. Review existing information, including information from the parents and the student's educational records
    2. Obtain a medical statement or health assessment statement indicating that an event may have resulted in a Traumatic Brain Injury
    3. Conduct a comprehensive psychological assessment using a battery of instruments intended to identify deficits associated with Traumatic Brain Injury
    4. Conduct other assessments (motor, communication, psychosocial) as indicated by the student's functioning in those areas
    5. Gather other information relating to the student's suspected disability, including pre-injury performance and a current measure of adaptive ability
    6. Conduct at least two observations:
      1. At least one observation in a classroom
      2. At least one observation in another setting
    7. Gather evidence of the impact of the disability
    8. Conduct additional assessments if necessary to identify the student's educational needs (will they need Specially Designed Instruction as a result of the Traumatic Brain Injury?)

    Comparing the student's academic and functional performance before and after the injury is particularly important in determining eligibility for TBI. Interviews with the student, parents and school staff will help provide this important information.

    Follow the Return to Learn Protocol from the UofO Center for Brain Injury Research and Treatment (CBIRT) - see link in Resources section below.

    Continue to gather pertinent information as the student’s needs may change over time.

    In the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Traumatic Brain Injury is listed with the disability code #74  


    Traumatic Brain Injury Accommodations - ODE PDF fillable form (October 2021)
    Return to Learn Protocol - UofO Center for Brain Injury Research and Training (CBIRT)
    What Teachers Should Know about TBI
    - University of Oregon (CBIRT)
    Center for Brain Injury Research and Training - University of Oregon (CBIRT)
    Columbia Regional Program - TBI Resources
    Columbia Regional TBI Referral Form - Contact your SPED IC to complete this form
    Return to Learn Guidelines - Brain Injury Association of America


    What is the difference between acquired brain injury vs. traumatic brain injury?

    An Acquired Brain Injury is a broad term that includes any injury to the brain (including congenital and degenerative brain conditions). A Traumatic Brain Injury is a specific kind of acquired brain injury that results from an external physical force. Most traumatic brain injuries are caused by car accidents and falls (bike, skiing) as well as sports injuries. To be eligible for special education under the category of TBI, a student must have experienced a TBI as defined here. A student with a non-traumatic acquired brain injury (e.g. acquired at birth) may be eligible for special education under a different category (OHI, SLD, ID, etc.).

     What are common symptoms of TBI - and how can they look similar to other eligibility categories?