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Differences for Children with TBI vs. Learning Disabilities

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 Deficits Varies

Skills and Knowledge

TBI Pre-TBI learning is largely intact.
Learning Disability Splintered and underdeveloped.
Emotional Deficits 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 Deficits New learning can be linked with past learning.

Academic Deficit

TBI Based on disrupted cognition.
Learning Disability Based on type of learning disability.
Emotional Deficits 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 Deficits Affected by behavioral difficulties.