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Strategies for Living with Brain Injury

Issue 33

Living with a brain injury can be challenging but, there’s good news. There are simple accommodations that can be used by the survivor, provider, or the person’s support system to help reduce the impact of brain injury symptoms.


  • Try scheduling regular appointments on the same day and time whenever possible.
  • Consistently use an organization system such as a calendar, binder, or digital format, and have designated locations for important information or items.
  • Have important information in as many formats as possible: verbal, written, digital, and posted in a high-visibility area.
  • Keep to predictable routines whenever possible.

Delayed Processing

  • If someone is speaking too quickly, ask them to slow down.
  • Advocate for important conversations to take place in low-distraction areas such as in a private room or at less busy times.

Attention Problems

  • Do the most important or most difficult tasks earlier in the day, or when you are most rested.
  • Use visual aids whenever possible or take notes to record any important information, even if you feel you will remember it later.
  • Break tasks up into smaller parts.

Impulsive Behavior

  • Minimize disruptions during activities.
  • Silently repeat questions or directions to yourself while waiting your turn or opportunity to act.
  • Write down your questions or thoughts if stating them immediately would be unhelpful to the situation.
  • Have someone with you at important times to remind you to practice these skills.

Physical Challenges

  • Communicate your needs fully and often.
  • Think about the environment you will be in ahead of time, and bring any needed accommodations such as a hat or sunglasses to protect from bright lights, ear plugs if you are sensitive to noise, and mobility devices.


  • Repeat important information back to the speaker. Use a voice recorder if needed.
  • Ask for visual content when available such as flyers, images, and business or appointment cards.
  • Write out or record your questions or comments beforehand.
  • Ask for clarification if you are unsure what is being communicated. Many people use sarcasm or abstract concepts in everyday conversation.

Mental Inflexibility

  • Ask to be notified of changes as far in advance as possible with reminders.
  • Role-play with others for tough situations you may encounter. This way you can practice skills such as self-talk, breathing, or grounding exercises in a realistic setting.

Emotional Shifts

  • Work on learning your emotions and being aware of them.
  • Practice mindfulness to keep focus on the here and now.
  • Keep things predictable and structured when you feel your emotions may be difficult to control.

Issues with Sleep

Fatigue is one of the most frequent and longest-lasting symptoms of brain injury, so adequate sleep and rest are very important.

Practice good sleep hygiene: get exercise during the day, avoid caffeine and eating heavy meals less than three hours before bed, avoid screens one hour before bed, practice a relaxing pre-bedtime routine, keep the room dark and cool, and if you can’t sleep, get up and do a relaxing activity, then try to sleep again.

For more Maine brain injury information, resources, and support, please contact BIAA-ME at 1-800-444-6443.

Sarah K. Gaffney
Sarah K. Gaffney
Sarah Kilch Gaffney, CBIS, is a writer and brain injury advocate living in central Maine. She is the Program Coordinator for the Brain Injury Association of America — Maine Chapter.

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