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Online Learning for Students with Brain Injury & FASD

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Schools in Colorado & Pennsylvania who have trained BrainSTEPS Teams are in the best position to support students with brain injury, regardless if students are in brick & mortar school buildings or taking online classes.

Because students with brain injury may have difficulty with some aspects of online learning, BrainSTEPS developed a list of academic adjustments that can be used for students with brain injury who are participating in online learning.

During online learning students with brain injury may have difficulty with many of the same challenges as in-person learning:

  • Attention and Concentration:
    • Mentally focusing on what is on the screen – can’t keep up
    • Following multi-step directions
    • Shifting attention to another topic or transitioning to another activity
  • Processing Speed:
    • Responding in the time allotted
    • Following lectures
    • Integrating information from several sources

  • Memory:
    • Recognizing, encoding, or recalling information recently learned, or information from passages/readings
    • Repeatedly asks the same questions
    • Following multi-step directions
  • Sensory and Motor:
    • Increased distractibility during activities
    • Visual scanning - searching/scanning for visual information
    • Cognitive fatigue - a decrease in cognitive energy that occurs from focusing on sustained cognitive demands (e.g., schoolwork, learning), independent of sleepiness.


The below resources are offered for consideration during the time of remote instruction due to COVID-19.  This list is not comprehensive of all possible resources. The listed resources are provided for information only. The Colorado Department of Education does not endorse, represent, or warrant the accuracy or reliability of any of the information, content, services, or other materials provided by these educational service providers. Any reliance upon any information, content, materials, products, services, or vendors included on or found through this listing shall be at the discretion of the user.

Virtual Room Fatigue Solutions

  • Discourage students from doing online learning on small screens (e.g., a smart phone) – this can cause eye fatigue and cognitive fatigue. Encourage use of laptop or computer screen
  • Adjust computer display
    • Increase font size (large print is defined as 16 -to 18-point bold type, depending on the typeface used)
    • Adjust screen settings to enlarge entire screen
    • Dim screen brightness
    • Turn Night Light setting on; reduces blue light and may help with eye fatigue and sleep patterns
    • Encourage student to try out alternative screen colors
    • Contrast desktop screen from light to dark
    • Reduce screen glare (encourage student to sit away from windows, bright lights)
  • Encourage use of noise blocking headphones when doing schoolwork at home if there are other siblings/parents in the same room or within close vicinity
  • Hide self-view (this can be very distracting and make students self-conscious
  • For students with visual field neglect, provide cues to scan entire screen for content.
  • Use mind or concept mapping software – to help the student organize thoughts, get started on a writing assignment, or plan a project

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Considerations for Educators

  • Always use an agenda
  • Increase structure - create a routine and encourage sticking to a daily schedule
  • Schedule “brain breaks” from the computer throughout day
  • Lead students through mindfulness, belly-breathing strategies for brain breaks, transitioning, or calming
  • Allow students to turn off their camera’s for some activities
  • Cue student to take short “eye breaks” from computer screen (e.g., focus on something across the room to give eyes a rest, close eyes for a short period of time)
  • Provide extended time for projects and assignments
  • Allow students to incorporate their interests or hobbies into the topics/work
  • Talk less, write more – communicate via chat/text/white board
  • Offer online “office hours” for 1:1 or small group support and/or tutoring
  • Offer a “touch-base” teacher, school counselor, social worker or school psychologist for emotional support - online learning can cause the student to experience additional anxiety and/or depression due to the social isolation
  • Provide and explicitly review checklists that break down tasks, classwork, homework, key learning content to alleviate difficulty keeping up during online learning
  • Use clock/timer apps to time built in breaks, to chunk reading time, break up screen time, etc.
  • Use headings for any content changes on the screen
  • Limit the use Tables and Frames within online materials – these may be difficult for text-to-speech readers to translate
  • Provide alternate ways of accessing the content, for example, read the exam questions to the student via the online platform
  • Record online session content so student can review

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Suggestions for Students/Parents

  • Create a routine and encourage sticking to a daily schedule
  • Discourage student naps – it is important to maintain a normal sleep schedule
  • Use word prediction software that predicts words while the student is typing such as:
  • Speech-to-text - Speech recognition software that will turn a student’s speech into text on the computer screen.
  • Scanners with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to extract text from PDF documents and images (JPG, BMP, TIFF, GIF) and convert into editable Word, Excel and Text output formats

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Assistive Technology Resources

Additional assistive technology found on all mobile device smart phones (iPhone, Android, etc.):


Mood changes, depression, and anxiety: 

Monitor the student for signs of anxiety related to online learning, increasing pandemic fears, social isolation and refer all concerns to parent, school psychologist, school counselor, and/or social worker for follow up.

Additional strategies may be found in Brain Injury in Children and Youth – A Manual for Educators

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Questions? Contact

*Please Note: Specific programs listed are provided as possible resources. The BrainSTEPS program has not individually vetted and does not endorse any specific programs.

Jody Dickerson, RN, BSN, MN
Brain Injury Specialist 
Phone: (720) 795-2273
Email Jody Dickerson


Toni Grishman, RN, BSN
BrainSTEPS CO Program Co-Coordinator
Phone: 303-524-4321
Email Toni (


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