Helping Children with Brain Injury Develop Executive Function Skills Through the Use of Apps


According to the Centers for Disease Control, traumatic brain injury (TBI) in children (age 0-24) represents a significant public health burden in the United States. Between 70-90% of TBI-related ER visits for this population are designated as mild (mTBI). Although considered mild, significant cognitive and social challenges may persist. Kids and young adults living with brain injury often struggle with executive dysfunction, including pacing activities, time and energy management, setting goals, strategy development and use, and self-regulating behaviors. These struggles significantly impact their classroom success, socialization, and self-esteem. This pre-conference workshop will engage participants in identifying the executive function skills essential for school success and explore several apps that address many of these skills. We’ll briefly discuss an iterative design process and the importance of including the intended users, parents, classroom teachers, and/or relevant medical professionals in the development process. These groups could assist young users in the direct use of the app. Or, they may simply use the app themselves to track a variety of social/behavioral issues, goal completion, and the use of effective strategies for those who are too young or have too many cognitive challenges. We’ll then demonstrate several apps and provide small group hands-on activities to help participants become familiar with the apps, their features, and how the features apply to executive dysfunction.

The toolbox of apps discussed in this session include Notability (notetaking), Inspiration Maps (organization and brainstorming), and the BEST Suite designed specifically for individuals with brain injury. The BEST Suite includes four integrated apps—PaceMyDay (energy management), ReachMyGoals (SMART goal creation and management), StrategizeMyLife (identification and rating of the strategies used to accomplish tasks and goals), and CompleteMyTodos (task management). We’ll conclude the session by addressing the very specific challenges and needs associated with app training for brain injury survivors, brain injury professionals, and caregivers—training that will ensure they know how to use the apps effectively.

Development of the BEST Suite application was supported in part by the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Community Living, Health and Function (LiveWell RERC) funded by a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under (grant no. 90RE5023.)

Learning Objectives:

  • Recognize at least 5 types of executive functioning deficits children and adolescents present with after brain injury. (Direct instruction, brainstorm)
  • Identify and evaluate the apps within the Best Toolbox and which features address specific executive functioning needs of students. (Small group, problem-solving activities)
  • Utilize one or more of the applications to learn to operate them. (Hands-on activity)


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