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Practices with Promise Success Story

Submitted By: San Diego, San Diego Adult Education Regional Consortia

Unique Approach to Serving Brain Injury Survivors

The Challenge

Adults face unique challenges after suffering a brain injury, often known as the “hidden disability,” because the person can “look fine.” After brain injury due to trauma, stroke, tumor, infection, or lack of oxygen to the brain, individuals might struggle with issues with memory, time and stress management, fatigue, overwhelm, processing delays, communication, reading, writing, and self-advocacy. As insurance coverage for rehabilitation diminishes, these survivors still need and can benefit from additional support, education, and training to continue to contribute to the community. Scientific research clearly supports the ability of the brain to learn and change, but the community must provide the structure and opportunities.

The Solution

From necessity comes innovation. That’s how the award-winning Continuing Education’s Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) Programs in the San Diego Community College District (SDCCD) set out to extend the continuum of care and service. The single class in 1983 has expanded to three ABI Programs. ABI learning covers rebuilding a sense of self, improving insight, integrating strengths and limitations, learning and using compensatory strategies, and workplace, academic, volunteer, and independent living transitioning. Instructors have expertise in speech-language pathology and rehabilitation counseling, plus decades of teaching/therapy experience. The curriculum is student-centered and covers an array of personal, academic, and social coping skills.


Success stories include a student who gained skills at ABI that allowed her to enroll as a nursing student at National University; another student started her own business after completing culinary school; another published a book about her recovery. Two former students have earned medals in the Para-Olympics and several have been featured artists. Countless students have volunteered at hospitals, schools and animal shelters. A current student summed it up well: “The most important thing I have learned is that I am not alone in the challenges I am dealing with...I am learning that with the strategies being taught by the ABI Program, I will be able to participate in life once again and not be afraid to leave my own little world."

The Data

The SDCCD has been on the cutting edge in developing this unique program of continuing education classes for brain injury survivors to help them re-integrate in to society, whether that be returning to academic studies or work or learning to live more independently and successfully with their “new” brain. An extensive, front-page article in 2007 Sunday San Diego Union Tribune highlighted the ABI Programs, which also won the 2002 “Program of the Year” from the local CA Speech-Hearing-Language Association. Students and their families routinely commend the program on helping survivors improve their skill set and rebuild a new life within their community. In 2011, scores of letters to the Chancellor's office attested to the program's success.

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