Acquired Brain Injury

‘ABI’ – A new acronym for the Education sector!

 “… So I just sat there for 1hr 45, not being able to remember anything. When it was over, my teaching assistant said two words which triggered my memory and it all came back.”

Acronyms abound in education, particularly if you work with SEN students! When I read this comment on social media, it led to the discovery of another: ABI (Acquired Brain Injury). That was Lewis’ problem. A series of brain operations had severely damaged his memory trigger, however, as his comment suggested, he benefitted from an additional prompt, so I decided to try and see if such help could be recognised as an ‘access arrangement’.

During the process of honing my writing skills on the educational and exam hierarchy, where I attempted to persuade them to extend the prompting parameters, I was introduced to the Child Brain Injury Trust (CBIT), which supports families and children with ABI. When I explained my quest, they generously invited me to an APPG meeting that was due to take place at the Palace of Westminster, to debate the impact of ABI on the lives of children and young people (CYP) and to work towards it gaining government recognition as an SEN category.

Three weeks later I sat listening to MP’s and speakers discussing the many problems associated with the neurological condition. My primary interest was to learn more and to see how schools could recognise and support children with ABI. It seemed that my lack of knowledge was unfortunately not uncommon. As experts considered the processes of rehabilitation and reintegration into society,  including transition back into mainstream education, problems were highlighted in terms of adequate aftercare in school, as knowledge about ABI is unfortunately, rarely a part of a SENCO’s, Ed Psych’s or a teacher’s training.

Do we know, for example, that the consequences of a brain injury incurred in childhood may not actually manifest itself until the teenage years, because children’s brains develop in a series of peaks and aren’t fully mature until their mid 20’s? Very young children often fall over, making them particularly susceptible to head injuries. As a consequence, could this imply the potential for some of these children to acquire neurodevelopmental problems at secondary school? If so, are we ready?

Most SEN students with learning difficulties are supported with their education at school. Providing suitable support for a student with an ABI can be challenging, especially if a diagnosis has not been made. Symptoms may only manifest themselves later. A child that had previously been making expected progress might become more disruptive, or concentrate less well, have poorer memory skills, lack confidence or be withdrawn. However, these changes can also be indicative of conditions like ADHD, ASD or Dyslexia or even ‘being a teenager!’ So how do we know?

Whilst my knowledge is limited at the moment, as the APPG suggested, there is a need to learn more. ‘CBIT’ provide training on ABI through workshops and on-line seminars which is free to the education sector ( .Similarly an MP’s debate on ABI, which recently took place (18.6.18), is also available to watch on-line.

Unfortunately, my request for extra prompting is currently unsuccessful, as it was perceived to potentially provide too much help!  I hope that the future will be more positive for children with ABI, as they “need to have their condition recognised and to be supported to do the best they can at school and to improve their life outcomes”. (Liz Twist MP).

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Author: Debbie Carletti


Although teacher trained Debbie is currently an HLTA working mainly with KS4 – SEN students. Based at Kingstone High School Herefordshire for the past 9 years. Debbie’s other duties include improving the school’s library and promoting Literacy skills. She got involved with ABI when she was introduced to a woman and her son who are friends of a colleague of hers. They have faced huge battles because of his health issues, so she decided that having completed a Diploma, she would try and use that knowledge to challenge some of the inequalities in the education system. She also likes to write, so is trying to get involved in the world of Blogging.





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