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Online Learning for Students with Brain Injury & FASD

COVID-19 and Special Education

View information for educators and parents to support students with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 resources for special education

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Office Hours

Heather Hotchkiss will be offering monthly office hours on the following Wednesdays from 9:00 - 10:30 AM. *

August 26th
September 30th
October 28th


Schools in Colorado & Pennsylvania who have trained BrainSTEPS Teams are in the best position to support students with brain injury, regardless if students are in brick & mortar school buildings or taking online classes.

Because students with brain injury may have difficulty with some aspects of online learning, BrainSTEPS developed a list of academic adjustments that can be used for students with brain injury who are participating in remote online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During online learning students with brain injury may have difficulty with:

  • Attention and Concentration:
    • Mentally focusing on what is on the screen – can’t keep up
    • Following multi-step directions
    • Shifting attention to another topic or transitioning to another activity
  • Processing Speed:
    • Responding in the time allotted
    • Following lectures
    • Integrating information from several sources

  • Memory:
    • Recognizing, encoding, or recalling information recently learned, or information from passages/readings
    • Repeatedly asks the same questions
    • Following multi-step directions
  • Sensory and Motor:
    • Increased distractibility during activities
    • Visual scanning - searching/scanning for visual information
    • Cognitive fatigue - a decrease in cognitive energy that occurs from focusing on sustained cognitive demands (e.g., schoolwork, learning), independent of sleepiness.


The below resources are offered for consideration during the time of remote instruction due to COVID-19.  This list is not comprehensive of all possible resources. The listed resources are provided for information only. The Colorado Department of Education does not endorse, represent, or warrant the accuracy or reliability of any of the information, content, services, or other materials provided by these educational service providers. Any reliance upon any information, content, materials, products, services, or vendors included on or found through this listing shall be at the discretion of the user.

Suggestions for Students

Below are BrainSTEPS suggestions for students when participating in online learning.

Set up

  • Discourage students from doing online learning on small screens (e.g., a smart phone) – this can cause eye fatigue and cognitive fatigue. Encourage use of laptop or computer screen

  • Adjust computer display

    • Increase font size (large print is defined as 16 -to 18-point bold type, depending on the typeface used)
    • Adjust screen settings to enlarge entire screen
    • Dim screen brightness
    • Turn Night Light setting on; reduces blue light and may help with eye fatigue and sleep patterns
    • Encourage student to try out alternative screen colors
    • Contrast desktop screen from light to dark
  • Reduce screen glare (encourage student to sit away from windows, bright lights)

Give Physical Breaks

  • Cue student to take short “eye breaks” from computer screen (e.g., focus on something across the room to give eyes a rest, close eyes for a short period of time)
  • Lead students through mindfulness, belly-breathing strategies for brain breaks, transitioning, or calming
  • Schedule “brain breaks” from the computer throughout day

Create Visual Breaks

  • Reduce visual clutter on the screen pages to reduce visual overload
  • For students with visual field neglect, provide cues to scan entire screen for content.

Communication Adaptations

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Considerations for Teachers

  • Use headings for any content changes on the screen.
  • Read exams to the student via Zoom or other online platform. Zoom is currently offering free subscriptions for all K-12 public schools.
  • Use clock/timer apps to time built in breaks, to chunk reading time, break up screen time, etc.
  • Record online session content so student can review
  • Use concept mapping software – to help the student organize thoughts, get started on a writing assignment, or plan a project
  • Provide extended time for projects and assignments
  • Offer “office hours” via Zoom, etc.
  • Offer online tutoring

Other Helpful Tips

  • Create a routine and encourage sticking to a daily schedule
  • Discourage student naps – it is important to maintain a normal sleep schedule
  • Provide checklists that break down tasks, classwork, homework, key learning content to alleviate difficulty keeping up during online learning
  • Offer a touch-base teacher, school counselor, social worker or school psychologist for emotional support - online learning can cause the student to experience additional anxiety and/or depression due to the social isolation
  • Encourage use of noise blocking headphones when doing schoolwork at home if there are other siblings/parents in the same room or within close vicinity
  • Teachers of online content should use Tables and Frames online sparingly – these may be difficult for text-to-speech readers to translate

Mental Health

Emotional mood changes, depression, and anxiety: Monitor the student for signs of anxiety related to online learning, increasing pandemic fears, social isolation and refer all concerns to parent, school psychologist, school counselor, and/or social worker for follow up.

Brain Injury in Children and Youth – A Manual for Educators

Additional strategies may be found in Brain Injury in Children and Youth – A Manual for Educators

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Assistive Technology Resources

Additional assistive technology found on all mobile device smart phones (iPhone, Android, etc.):

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Questions? Contact

*Please Note: Specific programs listed are provided as possible resources. The BrainSTEPS program has not individually vetted and does not endorse any specific programs.

Heather Hotchkiss, MSW
BrainSTEPS CO Program Co-Coordinator
Phone: 303-866-6739
Email Heather (

Janet Tyler, PhD, CBIST
BrainSTEPS CO Program Co-Coordinator
Phone: 303-866-2879
Email Janet (

Brenda Eagan-Johnson, EdD, CBIST
BrainSTEPS PA Program Coordinator
Phone: 724-944-6542
Email Brenda (

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