Acquired Brain Injury

This resource is for students with an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI). It aims to assist those who are studying or intend to study at tertiary level.

Strategies for successful study

Tertiary study is challenging and it is important to undertake a realistic study load. If you need ongoing support, you should consider discussing your needs with Student Equity and Disability Support, as we may be able to provide services to assist with your studies. You can maximise your chances of success by using the various services available to you and developing a range of study strategies.

You might find it useful to explain the effects of ABI to your lecturers and the possible impact on study. For example:

  • poor memory and/or concentration skills
  • slower rate of information processing
  • difficulty reasoning and problem solving
  • difficulty organising time and prioritising
  • difficulty with language, such as: comprehension and speech
  • physical problems, such as: affected vision, dizziness, headaches, fatigue, pain, fine motor skills and coordination
  • social difficulties, such as: impulsive or disruptive behaviour, inappropriate responses
  • possible feelings of low self-esteem, depression or anxiety.

Preparing for study

There are a number of options you can consider to help you prepare for study.

  • Consider courses that require less memorisation or need for abstract reasoning.
  • Investigate bridging or TAFE certificate courses that lead to a university degree.
  • Talk to other students who are studying courses of interest.
  • Consider part-time study or distance education.
  • Contact a Student Equity Adviser before you commence studying to discuss ongoing support.
  • Explore the available adaptive technology in the library or through Student Equity and Disability Support.
  • Organise a quiet study area free from distractions.
  • Set up efficient, colour-coded filing systems for each subject.
  • Create a comprehensive timetable to map out assessment tasks (commencement and due dates) and exam dates.
  • Establish study routines, such as: planning to study for short periods with frequent breaks. Stop 1 can help set realistic goals and study plans.
  • Maintain a life balance. Allow time for socialising, exercise, relaxation and sleep.
  • Be prepared for ups and downs during the study year and focus on the positives.

Study techniques and tips

  • Lectures and tutorials

    • Attend all lectures, tutorials and laboratory sessions. Find out what was covered in any sessions missed.
    • Do preparatory reading for all lectures and tutorials.
    • Sit close to the front where there are fewer distractions.
    • Consider attending repeat lectures and ask lecturers for copies of notes or other materials.
    • Share notes with other students to check key points and fill any gaps.
    • If organising material or writing quickly is a problem, explore support options with a Student Equity Adviser.
    • Reinforce new material by listening to recordings of lectures or tutorials.
    • While in tutorials, ask for explanations of anything not understood.
    • Revise notes frequently. Summarised notes in small notebooks can be used anywhere for revision purposes.
    • Be fully prepared for tutorial presentations, such as practising and timing delivery, organising notes and highlighting key points.

  • Reading and writing

    • Start reading early and selectively. Lecturers and tutors can indicate the most important texts and suggest less complex texts.
    • Speak to a Student Equity Adviser to find out about accessible/alternative formats such as digital materials.
    • Break reading into manageable sections. Read actively and critically using the SQ3R technique: Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Rewrite.
    • Reading aloud can assist understanding and concentration.
    • Concept maps are useful tools for planning and organising written assignments.
    • Check subject guidelines for assignment presentation and referencing requirements or ask lecturers or tutors for copies of model assignments.
    • Stop 1 can provide information and instruction about writing techniques and can critically read assignments prior to submission.
    • If your lecturer's comments on your essays are unclear, ask for further feedback.

  • Exams

    • Make arrangements for any alternative assessments through a Student Equity Adviser at least five weeks before exams.
    • Early and regular revision is the most important factor in exam preparation.
    • Select relevant material and gear revision to suit exam style. Seek explanations for anything not clearly understood.
    • Space your study sessions and limit information intake.
    • Find different ways to understand, organise and remember material. Explore memory enhancement techniques, such as Mind Tools.
    • Write down names, dates, formulas etc. at the start of an exam so as not to forget.
    • Follow-up lost marks or lower-than-expected results with lecturers to improve future performance.

  • Dealing with stress

    • Talk to a counsellor or a Student Equity Adviser about stress management techniques.
    • Reduce non-essential activities and focus energies on study.
    • Improve organisational and time management skills.
    • Stay healthy by eating nutritious food and getting enough sleep.
    • Exercise regularly and practise relaxation techniques.
    • Cultivate friendships: join clubs, study groups, online discussion groups.

Information and resources

  • Study adjustments

    You should initiate enquiries about study adjustments with a Student Equity Adviser before you commence your studies. Possible adjustments include:

    • provision of note-takers
    • extended exam time, preferred seating, alternative venue
    • alternative formats and use of adaptive technology
    • alternative assessment arrangements.

  • Discussing your condition

    Some strategies can be implemented without discussing your condition. However, to provide ongoing support and specific study adjustments, the University needs relevant information regarding your requirements. You can contact a Student Equity Adviser to discuss appropriate adjustments while maintaining confidentiality.

  • Student rights

    Students with a disability have rights under the Disability Discrimination Act. If you feel your needs are not being met, you should discuss this with your lecturers or a Student Equity Adviser. If you are dissatisfied, complaints can be lodged through the University’s Complaints and Grievances procedure. If you are still dissatisfied, you can contact the Australian Human Rights Commission.

  • Resources

    Online resources are very useful and easy to access. Stop 1 and library staff can suggest and help source study-related information and references.You may also refer lecturers and tutors to a Student Equity Adviser for further information and advice.

    For a list of peak bodies and support groups, please visit preparing for study and community organisations.

Adapted from the original publication (the University of Melbourne and Australian Catholic University collaboration) funded by the Commonwealth Department of Education Employment Training and Youth Affairs under the Victorian Co-operative Projects for Higher Education Students with a Disability Committee, 1997. 
Written by Reem Al-Mahmoud, Patricia McLean, Elizabeth Powell, Janette Ryan. 
Revised version funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations under the National Disability Coordination Officer Program, 2009.