Acquired Brain Injury

Acquired brain injury (ABI) can be caused by a traumatic injury such as an accident or surgery, or a non-traumatic injury such as a stroke or brain tumour. Impairments can be permanent or temporary and can be physical, emotional, behavioural, cognitive or a combination of these. Individuals with ABI can generally undertake most kinds of work activity, providing that suitable support and adjustments are in place.


Symptoms and severity of ABI vary widely depending on which area of the brain has been damaged, but can include:


  • Short-term memory difficulties
  • Difficulties with speech
  • Personality changes
  • Physical mobility difficulties
  • Neurological difficulties (such as epilepsy).


The effects of ABI can be life changing and may result in people also experiencing depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from the accident/ trauma or other mental health conditions.

Potential impact on daily life and employment

  • The effect of ABI on employment will depend on the symptoms and severity of the brain damage. A tailored package of support will be required to meet individual needs
  • Individuals may experience tiredness or lack stamina, especially if they have been out of work for some time
  • Difficulties with numeracy and/or literacy, short and/or long-term memory and concentration are common
  • The impact of ABI can affect friends and family, making the individual feel responsible or guilty.

Support in the workplace

  • Some people with ABI can tire easily and workplace meetings should be kept to minimum time periods and allow for reasonable breaks
  • Flexible working practices could be encouraged if, for example, the individual experiences tiredness at a particular time of day
  • Using prompt cards, written operating procedures and dictaphones are examples of some of the adjustments that can easily be made
  • Consider the use of a workplace buddy to provide ongoing personal support
  • Undertake a risk assessment as some individuals with ABI will experience other conditions, such as epilepsy, which may require workplace adjustments
  • Identify what medication the individual is taking and the known side effects.

Over 700,000 Australians have a brain injury. Three in every four of these people are ages 65 or under. As many as two out of every three acquired their brain injury before the age of 25. 

Source; Brain Injury Australia website

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