Accommodating Student Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: Tips for Campus Faculty and Staff

Jun 1, 2011
Service members and veterans transitioning from deployment to higher education bring with them a degree of maturity, experience with leadership, familiarity with diversity, and a mission focused orientation that exceed those of nearly all of their peers. They may be expected to emerge as campus leaders; to enrich any class focused on history, politics, or public policy; and to serve as an engine for innovation on their campuses. However, many veterans acquired these assets at great personal expense, including battlefield injuries. Cognitive injuries are among the most prevalent of these battlefield injuriesfor today's returning service members. By some estimates, individuals who serve in Iraq and Afghanistan have as much as a 40 percent chance of acquiring such an injury by the time they have completed their service. Predominant among these cognitive injuries are traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Consequently, to allow and encourage this transitioning population to realize the greatest gain from postsecondary education, campus faculty and staff must recognize the potential learning challenges associated with these invisible injuries and make adjustments or implement accommodations to help ensure their students' academic success. To support faculty and staff who seek a better understanding of TBI and PTSD, this guide focuses on functional limitations commonly associated with these conditions and provides forms of classroom accommodations and modifications, also known as academic adjustments, responsive to these limitations. However, this information should not be divorced from the bigger picture, that individuals with combat-related TBI and PTSD will see themselves not as individuals with disabilities, but as veterans and service members. Campuses that are already well-prepared to serve veterans and service members in general will have far less need to specifically adapt to persons with cognitive impairments than campuses that have developed few veteran-specific programs or resources.
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