Postsecondary Protocols for College Students with Brain Injuries
This section discusses the Brain Injury Network recommendations for nationwide protocols for postsecondary level college programs for students with brain injuries. These protocols were developed by the Brain Injury Network in the years 2005-2006. Let us keep in mind that many people with brain injuries have very few options for rehabilitation from their injuries. One of the few available, affordable, resources for cognitive retraining, or training, is the postsecondary educational system. Therefore, many adults with brain injuries are returning to postsecondary educational programs to help restore or retrain their minds and sometimes bodies as well. We have detected that college level administrators and educators need guidance in developing, implementing, administrating, operating, assessing and improving college level programs for people with brain injuries.
Therefore, we recommend the creation of nationwide protocols (and international protocols) for all postsecondary education programs for students with brain injuries. (In fact, we espouse “national standards for college programs”.) In the United States we recommend that the U. S. Department of Education implement and promote protocols. Such protocols could be a model utilized internationally. Additionally, until such time as these national standards and protocols are adopted, we would like all chancellors, universities, colleges, state-wide college networks, to instigate appropriate standards, protocols and procedures for all programming for students with brain injuries in all colleges under their jurisdiction, direction, influence or control.
We survivors involved in the operation of the Brain Injury Network have some experience in the development and implementation of brain injury programming ourselves. Additionally, since we are all survivors, we understand the needs and concerns of our own community. We have sought the experience and advice of other survivors for many years. This happy juxtaposition of special needs and professional experience gives us a perspective we should like to share. Our standards and protocols should be helpful to anyone whose job it is to program for adult students with brain injury. The Brain Injury Network recommends the following protocols.
1. Adults with cognitive and other challenges from acquired brain injuries who enter or return to a college setting have a right to a safe, theoretically sound, college experience.
2. Safety is Always the First Consideration.
While college level brain injury programs and classes and activities may not be marketed as rehabilitation per say, they should have in place a structure and operation that lends itself to meeting the special needs of these students with brain injuries. Some individuals have greater needs than others, but the point is that all postsecondary disability programming must be designed to ensure safety for all student participants, whatever their particular functional level.
3. Utilization of Theoretically Sound Programming Helps Produce Safe Programs.
The utilization of the correct underlying theories vis-à-vis the education of adults with cognitive and physical challenges in a college setting should result in a reduction in harmful programming being directed at these types of adult students. No program design can guarantee complete safety, but sound, theoretically based programming should ensure a more optimal level of safety for the students. That means that educators who work with adult students with brain injuries should undertake more in-depth study of the theoretical constructs that have risen up over the past few decades for working with these individuals.
4. Professional Review and Evaluation of All Proposed “Model” Brain Injury Programs.
All programs put forth for utilization with adult students with cognitive, sensory, motor, physical and other challenges from brain injury should undergo rigorous professional review prior to implementation. We recommend that any program initiated by any college system or recommended by any professional organization, be tested at one site and be assessed and critiqued by a series of professional evaluators. We expect the brain injury community to be given the opportunity to make comment regarding any test model.
Recommendations for any proposed model to be utilized in any college system should ultimately be placed before a department or commission in order that it be reviewed and approved by top level thinkers and leaders prior to widespread implementation.
5. Students with Brain Injuries are Special Needs Students.
It should never be forgotten by administrators and educators that these students have special needs. Postsecondary administrators and educators should never make the assumption that every adult student with a brain injury is competent and is going to function on a level on par with other students. Some will, but some will not. Postsecondary administrators and educators also cannot assume that if a student with a brain injury looks able bodied that he or she is. After a brain injury, looks can be deceiving, and many survivors have hidden disabilities. And also, over time, the cognitive and physical status of individual survivors can change. Therefore, assessments of students must be ongoing.
Postsecondary administrators and educators also cannot assume that if a student with a brain injury looks able bodied that he or she is. After a brain injury, looks can be deceiving, and many survivors have hidden disabilities. And also, over time, the cognitive and physical status of individual survivors can change. Therefore, assessments of students must be ongoing.
Many students with brain injuries venture beyond Disability Resource Department classes and environs. They participate in mainstream classes and activities and are a part of the general student population. But the school must keep in mind no matter where the student is on campus that he or she has special needs.
6. Terminology to Utilize when Referring to “College Students with Brain Injuries”.
Please refer to college students with brain injuries as students with brain injuries. It is politically incorrect to refer to people as brain injured people or brain damaged people and by extension, brain injured students. Persons with a disability are just that, persons with a disability.
As dictated by the “people first philosophy” they are students with brain injuries. Additionally, they are “people with brain injuries” or “people with acquired brain injuries”. Please use “people first” terminology.
7. Privacy and Dignity.
Students' privacy and dignity must be protected. The names and faces of students with brain injuries identifying that they have brain injuries should not be on the college website or in college newsletters or newspapers unless the students have given written permission. Do not show group photos of students with brain injuries, identifying the students as a group of acquired brain injured students. Individuals may or may not want that private information about them advertised.
When referencing staff and participants on websites, in newsletters and other written communications, do not refer to staff as Mr. A. or Ms. B. but adult students in the diminutive by referencing them using first name only.
8. Uncomplicated Complaint Procedures.
Special complaint procedures must be developed for utilization with students with cognitive challenges. A process specifically designed to accommodate students with cognitive challenges must be utilized. Complaint procedures for students with brain injuries must be easy to follow. They cannot be complicated. A staff member on campus must have the responsibility to help students fill out a complaint form if the student has a complaint about something or someone at the school.
9. Campus Disability Ombudsman.
There should be a campus disability ombudsman. One function of the ombudsman would be to help students with cognitive challenges negotiate any school complaint process. The ombudsman should not work in the Disability Resource Department, because sometimes the complaints are about the Disability Resource Department. The ombudsman should also not report to the Dean in charge of the Disability Resource Department. The ombudsman should be free to act under independent authority. The ombudsman will also coordinate with local law enforcement on cases as required.
10. Adequate, Up-To-Date, and On-Point Training for Administrators and Educators Working with Students with Brain Injuries.
There are few ways to ensure that administrators and educators have adequate training in the field of brain injury rehabilitation in order to administer or teach students with brain injuries. Since currently it does not appear that there is any particular requirement that administrators have the experience necessary to operate postsecondary educational programs for students with brain injuries, one can only hope that they seek out and receive adequate training.
Additionally, each school must set up a handbook of applicable procedures for dealing with adults with cognitive challenges who attend college. That way administrators who may not have had sufficient training in how to administer programs for students with cognitive challenges will have procedures to look to. That way inexperienced and experienced classroom instructors will have procedures to look to. The team of persons who put the handbook together should include persons with extensive experience and credentials in rehabilitation of persons with cognitive challenges. Most particularly, deans in charge of programs for persons with disabilities must receive extensive training on disability program administration.
11. Appropriate and Well -Trained Administrators.
Administrators with appropriate academic credentials must have charge of campus Disability Resource Departments. The dean in charge of programs for persons with disabilities must receive extensive training on disability program administration. This leader must be qualified to formulate policy for students with cognitive challenges.
12. Staff Responsibility and Accountability.
Administrators and educators are accountable. They are not entitled to act with impunity. When there are problems they must take corrective action to ensure the safety of their students.
13. Internal Mechanisms to Ensure Ethics.
College level professionals who serve students with disabilities in postsecondary college programs should at least be held accountable under some internal policing mechanism of the school and/or professional certification entities. For example, AHEAD and CAPED (two professional organization for college level disability educators) should develop and publish their own Code of Ethics along the lines of the American Speech Language-Hearing Association's Code. AHEAD and CAPED should have a Board of Ethics. They should post a procedure for filing a complaint on their websites. The California Speech-Language Hearing Association even posts an actual consumer complaint form on its website.
All school functions involving people with brain injuries must be properly insured. All Brain Injury Campus Clubs must carry proper insurance for any on and off campus activities.
15. Adequate Supervision of Program Activities.
There must be adequate supervision of all brain injury program activities. That means that when the students with brain injuries are holding meetings or club functions, there shall always be a trained, accountable College staff person present from start to finish.
16. Swimming Pools on Campus.
Colleges must have extensive life guard presence complete with back up personnel at pool activities on campus, especially during adaptive physical education classes designed for students with brain injuries and other disabled students.
17. College Clubs for Students with Brain Injuries.
Make no mistake about it; any college club for students with cognitive disabilities must be considered an element of the college disability program. Said clubs must maintain stringent standards with college oversight and accountability. No college should be able to claim, on the one hand, that a club for students with brain injuries is their model program, but when things go wrong, be able to claim that the club is just a student activity over which the college has no control. Colleges must be accountable and must take swift action if there are problems in their clubs for students with acquired brain injuries.
18. Screening Volunteers.
Volunteers (including other students) who work with students on campus who have cognitive challenges must be screened and supervised.
19. Administrative Process.
Students who mistreat other students must be dealt with swiftly and firmly within the College's own administrative process.
20. Reporting Suspected Criminal Conduct on Campus or Involving Campus-Related Activities to the Authorities.
College level personel and trustees are required to report suspected criminal conduct or abuse against college students with cognitive challenges to local criminal authorities. Grades K through 12 teachers are required to make such reports under ”mandated reporter laws”. We have discovered college level personnel need to know that they also are required to report conduct that involves cognitively challenged adults. (At least this is the law in California, USA.)
To be clear, we want all college level personel (staff, administrators, counselors, employees, and trustees) to report any criminal conduct arising out of school activities to criminal authorities. If there is a gray area as to whether a reported or suspected activity is a school related activity, the presumption should be made to protect the adult who is cognitively fragile, i.e. triggering the reporting requirement.
No college personnel or college legal department should ever be allowed to conclude that conduct involving two students in a college club that relates directly to club activities is private conduct, and therefore out of the reporting sphere of the college. Further, when college personnel have reason to suspect criminal conduct outside of a brain injury club but on campus, or even off campus and totally unrelated to the college, against any of their students with cognitive challenges (gleaned through counseling sessions, etc.) they must be required to report that information to criminal authorities for further investigation and action.
There must also be disciplinary procedures for colleges or individuals at college who fail to report criminal conduct to the criminal authorities. In conclusion, train college staff to report any evidence of criminal victimization of their students with cognitive challenges to the authorities. Remove any staff persons who do not comport with the law on this issue.
21. Creation of College Procedures for Working with Local Law Enforcement.
Create college procedures for working with law enforcement in local communities when a crime is alleged to have been committed against a student with cognitive challenges.
22. Bar on Colleges Collaborating with Persons with a Criminal Record.
Colleges should not collaborate with persons with a criminal record on any type of brain injury programming, such as club activities or internet web site activities including online social communities and portals to college brain injury programming.
23. Establishment of Internal Administrative Procedures.
Each college must have internal administrative procedures whereby a staff person, student, or volunteer who has victimized a cognitively challenged student can be expelled from the College.
24. Initiation of a National Accreditation System.
We would like to see a national accreditation system. If there were a national accreditation system, all college programs for students with brain injuries could seek out and secure accreditation. In lieu of this, state-wide college networks, or statewide departments of education should work to create their own accreditation standards for programs providing instruction to students with cognitive challenges on campus. If there are master state educational plans that cover this area, disseminate the information. Improve said plans.
25. If and when there are Brain Injury Program Postsecondary Level Program Accreditations.
Colleges in the business of delivering college programs for students with brain injuries should seek out such accreditation. In lieu of a national accreditation system, state-wide college networks, college and university chancellor's offices, or state departments of education could work to create their own accreditation standards for programs providing instruction to students with cognitive challenges on campus. If there are master state educational plans that covers this area, disseminate the information in a way that is easily accessible to the public. Improve said plans. And lastly, please incorporate these protocols provided to you by the Brain Injury Network, an international and USA national survivor of brain injury advocacy organization. Thank you.