27 September 2023

Provide social and emotional support

Suggestion for implementing the strategy ‘Non-traumatic brain injury: Support a return to learning and activity’

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Notice where support is needed

Notice where support is needed

Many symptoms of a brain injury can often be misinterpreted.

Instead, these symptoms are signals that a brain is still healing and needs a supportive environment to aid recovery.


  • Behaviour changes triggered by minor events
  • Reduced impulse control
  • Frustration over not being able to do things they could do before
  • Easily overwhelmed
  • Reduced problem-solving skills
  • Unaware of changes in ability
  • Less able to read social cues
  • Inflexible thinking

Source: Brain Injury NZ (opens in a new tab/window)

Monitor frustration

Monitor frustration

A child or young person is likely to find it very frustrating that they can’t do what they could in the past.

Gently support participation

Gently support participation

Be guided by whānau.

Foster opportunities for the child or young person to reconnect with peers.

Monitor for signs of stress and adjust accordingly.

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Source: Ministry of Education

Ministry of Education

Useful teaching strategies

Useful teaching strategies

Select teaching strategies to support the recovery of a child or young person with a traumatic brain injury.

Seek feedback on what’s helpful.

Adjust as needed.

  • Maintain a daily routine as much as possible.
  • Practise dry runs for unfamiliar situations.
  • Provide more structure and fewer choices.
  • Provide activities for unstructured times.
  • Give directions slowly and support them with visual cues.
  • Teach self advocacy skills and prompts, such as “Can you help me get started?”
  • Focus on success – what the child or young person can do.
  • Offer lunchtime buddy groups.
  • Provide direct feedback on social skill development.
  • Suggest and model alternative words and actions in situations that escalate. Avoid descriptions or explanations.
  • Avoid time outs (the child or young person is not likely to independently regroup or calm down).
  • Use social stories to help teach solutions or coping strategies for different situations.

Source: Getting my bearings, returning to school: Issues facing adolescents with traumatic brain injury (opens in a new tab/window)

Reflection questions

Reflection questions

Adapt for your own context.
  • How could you reduce situations that may trigger anxiety? (Consider minimising changes in routine, cramped working spaces, noise, clutter, unstructured activity, frequent transitions). 
  • Where can you teach and include relaxation and coping strategies?
  • What processes will you use to regularly check-in with the child or young person?
  • How will you strengthen self-advocacy skills?

Useful resources

Useful resources

Changes Behaviour mood personality

Changes: Behaviour, mood & personality

Read time: 3 min

This leaflet explains how damage to certain parts of the brain can change personality and behaviour and affect mood.

Publisher: Brain Injury NZ

Download PDF


BrainSTARS: Regulation of emotion

This is a list of practical strategies for teachers and parents supporting students with a brain injury.

Publisher: BrainLine

Visit website

Next steps

More suggestions for implementing the strategy “Non-traumatic brain injury: Support a return to learning and activity”:

Return to the guide “Supporting learners with acquired brain injury”

Guide to Index of the guide: Acquired brain injury and learning