Acquired severe disabilities and complex health care needs: Access to inclusive education

Sarah L. Ballard, Stacy K. Dymond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This case study examined one high school student's access to inclusive education and experiences in an inclusive English class after he acquired severe disabilities and complex health care needs from a nontraumatic brain injury. Multiple sources of data (i.e., interviews, field notes, and documents) were collected and analyzed to formulate understanding of the unique particularities of this intrinsic, naturalistic case. Findings were organized into four major themes: (a) school reentry and adjustment, (b) communication access, (c) social inclusion, and (d) curricular access and assessment. Analysis of these major themes revealed that the focus student had minimal access to an inclusive education due to delayed school reentry, incomplete assessment data, and limited professional knowledge of acquired brain injuries and inclusive education. The student's experiences in the general education English classroom were predominantly characterized by limited access to communication and peer interactions, undefined learning priorities, and an overreliance on adult staff. Findings from this study suggest the need for additional research related to the prevalence of students with nontraumatic brain injury, supports needed by families and students post injury, professional training for school personnel, and the use of 1:1 paraprofessionals and nurses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-208
Number of pages18
JournalResearch and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2016


  • Acquired brain injury
  • Complex health care needs
  • Inclusive education
  • Secondary education
  • Severe disabilities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health Professions(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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