Should I Disclose My Acquired Brain Injury? - Part 3


But, I don't want preferential treatment...

In PART 3 of this four-part series, you will meet another acquired brain injury survivor. The details have been changed to protect the identity of the survivor. Melanie’s story highlights the difficulties of choosing to access special accommodations in academic settings.

Melanie's Story

Melanie is 40 years old and has survived two major car accidents in which she suffered brain injuries. Due to her injuries, she was unable to return to her previous job as a restaurant manager due to long hours; the fast-paced environment; the incessant noise; and being on her feet all day. She also experienced changes in her social skills which were the focus of many of her Speech-Language Pathology treatment sessions.


Melanie re-entered college, on a part-time basis without accommodations. She wanted to retrain so that she could re-enter the workforce in a more suitable occupation. She was insistent about the school being ‘left in the dark’ about her accident and injuries. Although she could have benefitted greatly from accommodations, she preferred to ‘tough it out’ as she did not want for others to know about her hidden disability, and she definitely did not want preferential treatment.


The Pros of Disclosing

Melanie’s treatment team was eager for feedback regarding her progress in classes and regarding Melanie’s social interactions with teachers and peers. The treatment team was also eager to offer recommendations of a reduced course load, a quieter test environment, and flexibility for deadlines. These accommodations would have been very helpful for Melanie given her difficulties with processing complicated information. The input of her teachers would have been helpful in fine-tuning her treatments. Feedback from the treatment team to the school would have allowed for the required accommodations to facilitate Melanie’s success.


The Cons of Not Disclosing

Due to Melanie’s decision not to disclose any information about her situation, she was left unaccommodated. She missed numerous deadlines resulting in grade penalties. She became overwhelmed and missed classes frequently. Eventually, she decided to drop out of the program.


As mentioned in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series on disclosing an acquired brain injury, there is no right way to disclose something as personal and significant as surviving a serious accident and sustaining an acquired brain injury. Each situation is very different and should be discussed with your treatment team, including your Speech-Language Pathologist – He or she is the specialist that knows your communication style and needs best.


Are you wondering whether or how to access academic or workplace accommodations for a brain injury or other disability?

Bobi Tychynski Shimoda is a Speech-Language Pathologist with more than a decade of experience working with neurological communication and swallowing disorders. She has worked in a variety of settings including inpatient rehab, acute care, community, and private practise. She is highly skilled in assessment, and innovative treatment approaches.