U of O
The Center on Brain Injury
Research & Training

Organizational Deficits in Students with TBI

Students who have a traumatic brain injury often experience difficulty with organizing their time, materials and thoughts. An organizational deficit makes it difficult to succeed in a classroom setting. The frontal lobes of the brain store and process organizational schemes. Because the frontal lobe is frequently damaged when a student experiences a brain injury, organizational challenges are common. Students may need organizational supports to be successful in school.

Organizational Supports and Strategies

Be prepared to try many different supports and strategies. No one support or accommodation is going to work for everyone. Try different supports or combinations of supports until you discover what works for your student. Then, be ready to make adjustments over time as the student’s needs change.

Advance Organizers

These organizers function as maps to tasks, schedules or thought processes. They can be as simple as written to-do lists and can get as complicated as the student needs. A general rule is to keep them as simple as possible. 


Providing a complete model of what the student is being asked to do helps him/her to organize their thoughts and understand what completion looks like. For example, providing a completed sheet of math problems, a sample essay, a finished art project or a Powerpoint presentation gives the student a structure for what is expected of him/her and a way to know when the project is completed.


Allowing a student who has organizational difficulty to practice a challenging, recurring task can be a successful strategy. Examples include practicing navigating a busy hallway and making it on time to class, creating routines for getting materials out and ready, turning in work, asking for help, etc. This practice helps students know what to expect and what is expected of them.


Sometimes, students with organizational challenges simply cannot get started because their thoughts are jumbled. For complex tasks, try working with the student to get started. Allow the student to lead the activity as much as possible and provide cues and prompts as needed. Simple gestures like pointing to the top of the page may cue the student to write their name there.

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Questions? Contact Melissa Nowatzke, TBI Teams Project Coordinator