Acquired Brain Injury

An acquired brain injury is damage to the brain that occurs after birth and is not related to birth trauma, congenital disorder, a developmental disability or degenerative disease.

Behaviour Help is a registered NDIS provider.

Image of the sections of the brain in which a brain injury might occur

Definition of Acquired Brain Injury

An acquired brain injury (ABI) is damage to the brain that occurs after birth and is not related to birth trauma, congenital disorder, a developmental disability or degenerative disease.

Causes of Acquired Brain Injury

Acquired brain damage can include damage sustained by infection, disease, lack of oxygen or a blow to the head. Two thirds of all people with an ABI who have their activity limited or restricted are over the age of 45.

Types of Acquired Brain Injury

There are two main types of acquired brain injury

  1. Traumatic brain injury: a traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when the brain is damaged by an external event or force.
  2. Non-traumatic brain injury: a non-traumatic brain injury (nTBI) occurs when the brain is damaged by an internal event or force.

Causes of Traumatic Brain Injury

  • Motor Vehicle accidents.
  • Falls.
  • Violence (e.g. direct blows to the head, gunshot wounds, violent shaking of the head).
  • Sports/recreational injuries (e.g. bike riding, skating, horseback riding).
  • Electrical shock or lightning.
  • Anoxia (loss of oxygen) (e.g. near-drowning, throat swelling, during surgery, choking, strangulation, crush injuries to the chest).

Causes of Non-Traumatic Brain Injury

  • Stroke.
  • Brain tumors.
  • Drug overdose.
  • Infectious disease; intracranial tumors; metabolic disorders such as Meningitis; brain tumors; hypo/hyperglycemia, hepatic encephalopathy, encephalopathy.
  • Seizure disorders.
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Toxic exposure to industrial chemicals, poisonous substances and gases, such as lead, gasoline and carbon monoxide.

Symptoms of Acquired Brain Injury

Every brain injury is unique and the type of injury the brain receives may affect just one functional area of the brain, various areas, or all areas of the brain. The symptoms will also vary in severity. Therefore each individual with an ABI  may or may not face or exhibit some or all of the symptoms described below:

Physical difficulties

  • Extreme mental and/or physical fatigue.
  • Disorders of movement - gaiting, ataxia, spasticity and tremors.
  • Seizure activity (traumatic epilepsy).
  • Impaired fine motor control, balance and coordination.
  • Constant or intermittent pain, headaches or dizziness.
  • Sleep disorders.
  • Paralysis and/or spasticity.
  • Reduced strength and coordination in the body, arms, and legs.
  • Nausea.
  • Lethargy (sluggish, sleepy, gets tired easily).
  • Body numbness or tingling.
  • Loss of bowel control or bladder control.

Communication difficulties

  • Difficulties with attending to and understanding complex instructions.
  • Difficulty with following conversations.
  • Word finding problems.
  • Speech that is not clear due to poor control of the muscles in the lips, tongue and jaw.
  • Breathing muscles may be weaker, affecting the ability to speak loud enough to be heard in conversation.
  • Difficulties with spelling, writing, and reading.
  • Difficulty with chewing and swallowing effectively.
  • Word retrieval problems.
  • Difficulty with abstract language.
  • Need for a longer response time, and the tendency to make things up inappropriately.

Cognitive difficulties

  • Difficulties with memory.
  • Short term memory is affected more often than long-term memory (forgetfulness; difficulty learning new material).
  • Difficulties with concentrating in a distracting environment.
  • Difficulty with dividing attention among multiple tasks/demands.
  • Impairments in executive functioning.
  • Difficulty solving problems.
  • Difficulty in processing information (decreased speed, accuracy and consistency).
  • Problems seeing the ‘whole picture’ or getting a concept.
  • Shortened attention span/ concentration.
  • Inability to understand abstract concepts.
  • Impaired decision-making ability.
  • Inability to shift mental tasks (repetitions of thoughts or behaviours).
  • Difficulty with abstract thinking.
  • Impulsiveness.
  • Inflexibility and difficulty with adjusting to change.

Psycho-social difficulties

  • Difficulty with initiating, taking turns, maintaning and terminating conversations appropriately.
  • Difficulty using an appropriate tone of voice.
  • Difficulty interpreting the subtleties of conversation (e.g., the difference between sarcasm and a serious statement).
  • Difficulty recognising, interpreting and responding to facial expressions and body language.
  • Difficulty keeping up with others in a fast-paced conversation.
  • May be overemotional (overreacting) or "flat" (without emotional affect).
  • Different degrees of awareness of self and changes.
  • Little or no awareness of impact of their communication style on others.
  • Difficulties with understanding cause-effect.
  • Rapid fluctuations in emotion (i.e. frequent mood swings, overreactions, impulsive crying, inappropriate reactions, aggressiveness, apathy, and/or errors in judgment).

Perceptual Symptoms

  • Sensory overload (e.g. noisy hallways, crowded areas, too much information presented too quickly).
  • Loss of sense of time and spatial disorientation.
  • Changes in sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste.

Behaviour Help

If you are supporting an individual with this diagnosis, please refer to our services and resources. They aim to help children, adolescents and adults achieve better communication, social, emotional, behavioural and learning outcomes. So whether you are wanting guidance on parenting, teaching, supporting or providing therapy, Behaviour Help is at hand.

Note: This is not an exhaustive list of all the possible causes, symptoms and types but some general information that can be further explored. Based on what you have read if you have any concerns about an individual, please raise them with the individual/s. The caregiver can then raise these concerns with their local doctor who can provide a referral to the relevant professional (e.g. paediatrician, psychologist, psychiatrist, allied health professional and learning specialists) for diagnosis and treatment if appropriate.

Which resources are right for you?


Based on the Taking CHARGE of Rainbow of Emotions Workbook this app helps children of all ages develop emotional regulation skills. The app guides the child to firstly, identify and express their emotion in appropriate ways. Then the child is guided to use emotional management tool/s from the CHARGE tool kit to manage their emotions in a healthy way.

The acronym CHARGE stands for the different categories of emotional management tools – Chat tools, Helpful thinking tools, Amusement tools, Relaxation tools, Good routine tools and Exercise tools.

Behaviour Help App - Using the evidence-based approach of Positive Behaviour Support (PBS), the Behaviour Help web-based app allows people supporting individuals with emotional and behavioural difficulties to complete a Functional Behaviour Analysis and put together a comprehensive Behaviour Support Plan (BSP). The BSP can then be used by everyone interacting with the individual to manage and prevent challenging behaviours and ultimately improve their lives, and the lives of those who support them.


If you want to learn more about emotional and behavioural difficulties then we have a great range of books you can read on your Kindle or order from Amazon.


Personalised and practical one to one help tailored specifically to your family.

Online Courses

Access these online courses anytime online to learn about a range of diagnoses, practical skills and strategies to help develop the individual’s emotional regulation skills. Also learn to utilise the positive behaviour support framework to address anxiety, aggression, ADHD, ASD and ODD.

SEL Educational Videos

Minimise or eliminate the occurrence of challenging behaviours by teaching children of all ages appropriate ways of communicating, interacting, managing their emotions and behaviours.

The SEL curriculum uses video modelling to provide direct, explicit and systematic teaching of the various skills by discussing the importance of the skill, modelling the skill so the child learns what the skill looks like? sounds like? feels like? and learn the skill in staged situations that simulate real life scenarios.


Personalised and practical behaviour therapy tailored specifically to your family.


Webinars discuss a range of practical strategies to guide your child learn positive ways of behaving and managing their emotions.


Attend our practical and interactive workshops to learn about a range of diagnoses, practical skills and strategies to help develop the individual’s emotions, behaviours, social and communication skills in your learning environment.

Ask Dolly

Since you’re here, you probably have questions and concerns. I am Dolly Bhargava, am here to help. I am a NDIS registered behaviour support practitioner and speech pathologist.

I have worked in a number of settings for over 21 years so, how can I help?

Please tell me what is worrying you right now and I will do my best to recommend resources and/or services that will be most useful to you in your situation.

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