Can I have your attention? (and keep it): Interventions to improve executive function skills in children post-traumatic brain injury

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Primary Focus: Children and Youth

Secondary Focus: Rehab, Disability, & Participation

Learning Objectives:

*Objective 1: Identify and recognize the clinical need of the pediatric traumatic brain injury population in regards to OT practice.

*Objective 2: Interpret presented findings to identify 2-3 of the most effective interventions for desired outcomes for this population.

*Objective 3: Differentiate opportunities and barriers to implementing effective executive functioning interventions in current occupational therapy practice.


Traumatic brain injuries are a frequent source of disability within the pediatric population with estimates of 500:100,00 children in America experiencing an injury each year (Anderson et al., 2012). These injuries typically result in a combination of physical and cognitive deficits, and the majority of injuries require comprehensive rehabilitation to address these deficits (Brain Injury Association of America, 2015). Executive functioning skills, the mental processes that determine how individuals think, act, and behave are often impacted, and in children, these deficits become increasingly evident as they age and face growing demands for new learning, cognition, and social skills (Brain Injury Association of America, 2015). Children with traumatic brain injuries often lag behind their peers while acquiring new skills and learning increasingly complex social behaviors (Anderson e al., 2012). The purpose of this presentation is to explore the interventions that can be used in occupational therapy to improve executive functioning skills in children and adolescents with TBI. The conducted literature review systematically examined available research to obtain relevant information regarding the effectiveness of various executive functioning interventions, as well as to determine interventions that are effective to use with this population in the context of occupational therapy as opposed to the wide array of research that focuses on the adult population.

Databases utilized included PubMed, CINAHL, and OVID Medline. Inclusion criteria was defined as persons age four through eighteen, participants with a diagnosis of traumatic brain injury, articles that were published in English, and articles published between 2009 until 2016. Methods applied to critique articles included determining clear interventions and outcomes both related to executive functioning skills within the scope of occupational therapy practice, which was performed through multiple abstract and full-text screens. (Will later include findings of the literature review.) These findings will potentially benefit interventions selected by occupational therapists to improve executive functioning skills with children and adolescents with traumatic brain injury, as well as to guide further research opportunities in regards to occupational therapy’s role in executive functioning skills and this population.


Anderson, V., Le Brocque, R., Iselin, G., Eren, S., Dob, R., Davern, T. J., . . . Kenardy, J. (2012). Adaptive ability, behavior and quality of life pre and posttraumatic brain injury in childhood. Disability & Rehabilitation, 34(19), 1639-1647 9p. doi:10.3109/09638288.2012.656789

Brain Injury of Association of America. (2015). Brain injury in Children. Retrieved July 19, 2016, from http://www.biausa.org/brain-injury-children.htm


Level of material being presented: Introductory

Target Audience: Mixed

Presentation: 34:12

TBI Call for papers.pdf (73 kB)