Assistive Technology for TBI: Understanding Traumatic Brain Injury

Effective Tools, Tech & Strategies For People Living With TBI

What Is Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an injury caused by an external force that disrupts the normal function of the brain. It can be caused by a forceful blow or jolt to the head, or by an object piercing the skull. Common causes include falls, vehicle-related collisions, and sports injuries. Activities involving loud noises can also lead to TBI. Injuries sustained during violent events can also be causes of TBI. TBI can happen to anyone, at any age, but falls are a leading cause of TBI in older adults, while motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of TBI in young adults, and concussion may be more common in children. These incidents can cause a wide range of cognitive, physical, and emotional effects.


Cognitive effects of TBI often involve difficulties with thinking, memory and concentration. For instance, individuals may struggle to recall recent events or maintain focus on tasks, or they may have trouble remembering new information. Physically, TBI can result in problems with mobility, coordination, balance, and chronic headaches. Someone with TBI may use a wheelchair or other mobility device, or they may have difficulty with tasks such as walking or dressing. Emotional effects of TBI can include depression, anxiety, and difficulty controlling emotions. For instance, someone with TBI may experience sudden mood swings or outbursts of anger. Such changes can strain personal relationships as well as affecting overall mental health. It is important to note that TBI can also increase the risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This condition that can manifest as flashbacks, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts about the traumatic event.

Regaining Independence After Brain Injury

Rehabilitation therapies can help people with traumatic brain injury recover lost functions, relearn skills, and adapt to their new situation. This rehabilitation can take many forms, including physical, occupational, speech, and cognitive therapies, delivered in hospitals, clinics, or even homes. The ultimate goal is to help individuals with TBI regain independence and reintegrate into their communities. However, the road to recovery can be long. Assistive technology can provide crucial support, especially for those who have less hands-on help available.

Assistive Technology for TBI

different assistive technologies devices for tbi

How Assistive Technology Aids Recovery

Assistive technology for TBI can significantly improve the lives of individuals dealing with its effects by addressing cognitive, physical, and emotional challenges. Cognitive aids, such as software applications designed for memory and organization, help manage memory loss and concentration issues. Physical aids like mobility devices support individuals with coordination problems, enabling them to move around more easily. Emotional support tools, such as mental health apps, can assist in managing anxiety and mood swings.

TBI Assistive Technology By Category

There are several categories of AT that can be helpful for people with TBI. Here are some of the most common:

Cognitive Aids
These tools can help with memory, organization, and problem-solving skills. Examples include software applications that provide reminders, scheduling features, and visual organizational tools. Electronic organizers and specialized cognitive rehabilitation software can also be helpful. Specifically, in memory and organization software, applications like Evernote and OneNote help users keep track of important information and organize their daily tasks. These tools can assist in managing memory challenges and maintaining focus. For reminder systems, while there are many options available, apps like Google Keep and electronic organizers can send alerts and reminders to help individuals remember appointments and tasks. Specialized software like BrainHQ is designed for cognitive rehabilitation, improving problem-solving skills and memory retention.

Mobility Aids
These devices can assist individuals with physical limitations caused by TBI. Common mobility aids include wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and braces. For balance issues that often occur with TBI, walkers can offer stability and support. Vehicle modifications such as hand controls and swivel seats can also improve driving independence.

Communication Tools
For people with speech or language impairments due to TBI, AT communication aids can be life-changing. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices, such as speech-generating devices and picture boards, can facilitate effective communication. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices, such as Dynavox or Proloquo2Go, facilitate effective communication for those with speech or language impairments. These devices use symbols, text, and speech output to help users express themselves.

Physical Therapy & Exercise Technology
Virtual reality (VR) systems and adaptive gaming technologies can provide engaging and interactive ways to support physical therapy and exercise routines, motivating individuals with TBI to continue their rehabilitation efforts. VR systems like Oculus Rift are used in physical therapy to create engaging and interactive exercise routines that aid in rehabilitation. Devices like the Xbox Adaptive Controller enable individuals with mobility impairments to participate in gaming, which can be beneficial for both physical exercise and cognitive engagement.

Environmental Controls
Smart home technology allows individuals with TBI to control their environment using voice commands or mobile apps. This can include lights, thermostats, and home security systems. Systems like Amazon Alexa and Google Home provide voice-controlled operation of lights, thermostats, and home security systems. Additionally, lower-tech adaptive switches and interfaces can customize household controls for easier accessibility. These switches can be used to operate various devices and appliances, making daily tasks more manageable.

Assistive technology for traumatic brain injury covers a wide range of tools and devices, all designed to support individuals in their recovery and daily life activities. By leveraging these technologies, people with TBI can experience improved independence and quality of life. A healthcare professional can assess an individual's specific needs and recommend their most appropriate assistive technologies.

Implementing Assistive Technology For TBI

When implementing assistive technology (AT) for people with TBI, it's important to consider several key factors to maximize its effectiveness. Here are some first steps and best practices:

  1. Assess Individual Needs
    A qualified healthcare professional should assess the specific needs and challenges of each person with TBI. This will help determine the most appropriate AT devices and software.
  2. Select Appropriate Tools
    Choose assistive devices and software that match the individual's requirements.
  3. Compatibility
    Consider compatibility between different AT devices and software. People with TBI may use multiple assistive tools, and they need to work together seamlessly.
  4. Accessibility Features
    Look for devices and software with built-in accessibility features. These can include features such as screen readers, voice control, and closed captioning. Web accessibility features are also important to support users with TBI. Use screen readers, voice recognition software, and keyboard navigation options as indicated. Look for websites that comply with accessibility standards and that include clear and simple website design, logical navigation structures and alternative text descriptions for images.
  5. Training & Support
    People with TBI and their caregivers are likely to need training on how to effectively use recommended AT and understand its functionality and benefits. Ongoing support also helps keep up continued successful use of the technology, addressing any issues or questions as they arise.
  6. Updates & Maintenance
    Keep assistive devices and software up to date. Regularly check for software updates and perform maintenance so that devices and applications function properly and remain reliable.
  7. Integrate With Daily Activities
    Encourage the use of assistive technology in daily routines. Integrate tools like reminder systems and electronic organizers into everyday tasks to enhance productivity and independence.

By following these best practices, healthcare professionals, caregivers, and people with TBI can work together to implement AT solutions that improve independence, communication, comfort, and overall quality of life.

Strategies For Selecting Appropriate Assistive Devices For TBI

Choosing the right assistive technology (AT) for someone with TBI requires a careful evaluation of their individual needs and the severity of their impairments. Some things to consider:

  • Focus On Functional Goals
    Consider the daily tasks and activities that the person with TBI struggles with. AT should address these specific challenges and help them regain independence in those areas.
  • Severity Of Impairment
    The severity of cognitive, physical, and communication limitations will influence the type of AT that is most suitable. For instance, someone with mild memory problems might benefit from a simple reminder app, while someone with severe memory loss might require a more sophisticated organizational tool.
  • Assessment & Consultation
    Conduct a detailed evaluation of the individual's specific cognitive, physical, and emotional needs. Involve healthcare professionals, such as neurologists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists, to provide expert recommendations. Their insights help identify the most effective assistive devices.
  • User Involvement
    Involve the person with TBI in the selection process whenever possible, so that the chosen devices align with their needs and lifestyle. Consider their comfort level with technology, their physical abilities, and any personal preferences they may have for the design or features of the AT.
  • Trial & Error
    It may take some time to find the right AT solution. Be open to trying different devices and software to see what works best for the individual. And, make good use of available trial periods for potential assistive devices and software. This allows individuals to test the functionality and suitability of the technology in real-life situations. Adjustments can be made based on their feedback.
  • Ease Of Use
    Prioritize devices that are user-friendly and require minimal learning time. Simple interfaces and intuitive controls increase the likelihood of regular use and reduce frustration.
  • Cost & Funding
    Consider the cost of devices and available funding options. Find out if there are government or non-profit organizations that can subsidize a purchase or subscription. Look for affordable solutions that do not compromise on quality. 
  • Ongoing Reviews
    Needs can change over time, so it's important to regularly assess the effectiveness of the AT and make adjustments as needed.

By following these strategies, people with TBI as well as healthcare professionals and caregivers can select appropriate assistive technology that works well to help people with TBI live more fulfilling and independent lives.

Training & Support: Maximizing the Benefits of Assistive Technology for TBI

Assistive technology (AT) can be a game-changer for people recovering from a traumatic brain injury (TBI). But getting the most out of these tools requires a little teamwork. Effective use of assistive technology for TBI patients is very much reliant on training and ongoing support. AT can range from simple devices to complex software. Training helps users navigate features and operate them comfortably, reducing initial challenges. Clear instruction means users are likely to operate devices confidently, minimizing the learning curve and encouraging consistent use. For people with TBI using AT, regular check-ins with tech support can address issues, as can troubleshooting with healthcare professionals, specific assistive tech experts, or support groups. This support extends to caregivers, giving them the confidence to assist with AT and providing them with resources to address any challenges that may arise. By investing in training and support, both patients and caregivers can master AT, unlocking a world of possibilities.

Better Assistance For TBI Independence

People with disabilities resulting from traumatic brain injury (TBI) can significantly improve their quality of life using assistive technology (AT). AT offers a range of tools, from memory aids to communication devices, that address the challenges faced by individuals with TBI. These tools empower them to regain independence in crucial areas like daily activities, career pursuits, and personal goals.

Accessible environments, both physical and digital, are equally important in building a sense of inclusion, welcome and respect. Barrier-free physical spaces and websites coded with accessibility features allow for greater participation in society on many levels, allowing people with disabilities to navigate the world more freely, pursue career ambitions, and achieve personal goals.

Ultimately, creating a society that welcomes and supports people with TBI benefits everyone. It contributes to the creation of a more diverse and vibrant community where everyone can thrive.


How can assistive technology help with memory problems after a traumatic brain injury (TBI)?

Reminder apps, electronic organizers, and specialized software programs that can store information and provide visual cues to aid recall.

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