For Adults: Securing Help Returning to Work or School

When an adult sustains a traumatic brain injury, it can be difficult to return to work or to college (or other form of education/training). There are many possible sources of help.

As discussed on the prior page, many professionals are available to help reduce the negative consequences of TBI that may get in the way of successfully returning to work or to school. These include occupational therapists and neuropsychologists who can help the TBI patient to learn to accommodate for cognitive losses, and neuropsychiatrists and physiatrists who can prescribe medications that may help. These, again, should be TBI specialists.

Another source of help for problems in returning to work or school is the program in your state that provides vocational rehabilitation (VR) services. These programs can be found by contacting your state Brain Injury Association representative. The goal of VR programs is to help people with TBI return to their old jobs or to help them in obtaining new employment if return to their old job is not possible. The people who provide VR services are referred to as vocational (or VR) counselors. Something to keep in mind: VR counselors typically are not TBI specialists. Instead, they have many clients, with many kinds of disabilities.

Also, most employers are required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (a federal law) to provide reasonable accommodations. "Reasonable accommodations" refers to the employer making changes in the work environment, in job demands or in other characteristics of the injured person's old job so that he or she can do the job. In finding ways to modify a job so that it fits the injured person's capabilities, employers should work with the VR counselor and other professionals, as well as the injured employee, to ensure that a return to the old job is possible. Clear communication about the injury and its effects on cognitive, behavioral and social functioning is vital, so that the employer can develop suitable changes in the work environment for the injured person. The injured person needs to keep in mind that some changes are not considered under the law as "reasonable," so that not all people will be able to return to their old jobs on the basis of accommodations.

Finally, if an injured person is trying to return to college, many colleges have special resources to help people with any type of disability to attend the school successfully. Often these resources are coordinated by one or more college employees within an Office for Students with Disabilities (the specific title will vary from school to school).