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Considerations for Serving Someone with an ABI

View our webcast: “Top 5 Challenges to Meeting Brain Injury Survivors’ Needs“.

Although no two people experience brain injury in exactly the same way, there are common challenges that accompany ABI which can impact service provision.  Without properly understanding an individual’s deficits, symptoms such as difficulty with initiation, language comprehension, or memory problems can be easily misinterpreted to be a lack of commitment or interest.  Furthermore, it is essential to tailor interventions to consider the impact of the ABI and what strategies may be implemented to overcome this.  By developing an understanding of how the ABI affects the individual you are working with, you will be more effective in achieving your shared goals.

It is recommended that you take the time to review relevant reports, discharge summaries, or assessments to develop an awareness of the individual’s strengths and weaknesses. It is often difficult to assess an individual’s understanding or ability to follow through based on presentation alone.  Individuals may retain some skills at average or above average levels of functioning while have severe deficits in another. For instance, your client may have good communication skills and be capable of comprehending your instructions in the moment, but if their severe memory impairment is not addressed, they will not follow through with instructions no matter how hard they try. If the individual has received recent rehabilitation services for the ABI, it is also advisable to speak with their rehabilitation professional for further guidance.  Although this may seem like more work up front, it will allow you to work with your patient or client in a way which is most effective in the long run.


When you suspect ABI:

You may have encountered an individual who presents with difficulties that do not seem to be easily accounted for.  At times, repeated mild brain injuries may lead to deficits, or an accident may leave the individual with obvious physical injuries while the less obvious brain injury remains undiagnosed.  It is often when people try to return to regular activities that they begin to discover difficulties.  Without adequate support, an undiagnosed ABI can cause or amplify additional issues, such as changes to family functioning, mental health concerns, trouble with the law, homelessness or addictions.


“If you are seeing someone where you suspect ABI may be a factor, it is important to ask them about any history of injuries or diagnosed ABI’s”

  • Do you have a diagnosis of an acquired brain injury?
  • Do you suspect you may have an acquired brain injury?
  • How long has it been since your acquired brain injury?
  • Have you ever lost consciousness or had a concussion?
  • How long was your loss of consciousness?
  • Do you know how your acquired brain injury has affected you?
  • Are there strategies we can implement which will help our time together to be more effective?

**NEW in 2017** Implementation of the “H.E.L.P.S.” Brain Injury Screening Tool 

  • 5 question standardized screening tool
  • Quick and easy to administer
  • Beneficial for organizations that my support persons with a brain injury
  • Useful as a catalyst for more discussion and/or follow-up with other community supports
  • Arrange for our System Navigator to provide your organization with training on this screening tool by contacting us (below)
  • Here’s a link to a PDF version of the HELPS screener: HELPS-screening-tool




If you would benefit from direct consultation, you can Contact Us for further assistance.