Headway of WNY, Inc.

A support and advocacy agency
for individuals with brain injuries,
disabilities and seniors.

Differences for Children with TBI vs. Learning Disabilities

Differences between a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and a Learning Disability, or Emotional Deficit in children.
It is important to keep in mind that TBI affects each child differently.

Areas of Difference


TBI: Sudden
Learning Disability: Early or from birth

Emotional Deficits: Slow, reactive to environment 


TBI: One or more blows to the head accompanied by altered mental status may or may have not loss of consciousness. Interference of oxygen or blood reaching the brain.
Learning Disability: Unclear

Emotional Deficits: Unclear

Functional Changes

TBI: Marked contrast between capacities pre- and post of a TBI can include memory loss, reduced processing speed and impaired executive functions.
Learning Disability: No before-after contracts in capacities.

Emotional Deficits: Change in functioning emerge slowly and gradually.

Physical Disabilities

TBI: May include loss of balance, weakness, paralysis, visual/sensory changes and headaches.
Learning Disability: Poor conditions is the most frequent impairment.

Emotional Deficits: Physical disabilities unlikely.

Emotional Difficulties

TBI: May have labile mood, depression and anxiety frequently found.
Learning Disability: Prone to outbursts related to situations.

Emotional Deficits: Reactions attributable to distortions of reality.

Behavioral Difficulties
TBI: Unpredictable: Possible agitation, aggressiveness, restlessness and impulsivity.
Learning Disability: Restlessness and impulsivity.

Emotional Deficits: Reactions attributable to distortions of reality.

Awareness of Deficits
TBI: Limited to full awareness
Learning Disability: Typically aware

Emotional Disability: Varies

Skills and Knowledge
TBI: Pre-TBI learning is largely intact.
Learning Disability: Splintered and underdeveloped.

Emotional Disability: Acquisition may be limited by emotional difficulties.

Difficulties with Learning
TBI: Old information is easier to recall than new.
Learning Disability: New learning can be linked with past learning.

Emotional Disability: New learning can be linked with past learning.

Academic Deficit
TBI: Based on disrupted cognition.
Learning Disability: Based on type of learning disability.

Emotional Disability: NOT based on impaired cognition.

Peer Interactions
TBI: Affected by cognitive deficits, behavioral difficulties and reduced social skills.
Learning Disability: Affected by poor social skills.
Emotional Disability: Affected by behavioral difficulties.

Copyright © 2022 Headway of WNY, Inc.