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Reading and Writing Difficulties following Brain Injury

See our TBI Home Page for a full list of information about Brain Injury, and links to information and strategies relating to memory, attention, social skills, executive functioning, and improving communication.

Many people encounter reading and writing difficulties following brain injury. Unfortunately, many people that were avid readers before their brain injury, almost give up reading all together because it becomes such a difficult task.The ability to read and write can be affected by a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in several ways:


  • Not being able to read or write text.
  • Not being able to understand the text.
  • Reading and/or writing causes a headache or makes you feel ill.
  • You have difficulty reading or writing more than a few lines without forgetting what you have read/written.
  • It is hard to focus on an individual line of text.
  • Reading and/or writing makes you extremely tired.


Although you might not be able to recover the reading and writing skills that you had prior to your brain injury, it is possible to make reading and writing easier by using some different strategies. For instance, write a note or keywords in the margin with a pencil to refer to if you have difficulty remembering what you have just read, or summarise the important aspects of what you have read into a Dictaphone and then play them back next time you open the book. Just putting a clear ruler under the line of text you are reading, can help some people. If you have difficulty with writing, get someone else to proof read your work to make sure it is correct and makes sense.



Nowadays technology provides many options to help with reading and writing. Below are a few examples:

  • Recording Pens – these pens can record lectures or meetings while you take notes. You can then concentrate on note writing and listen back to the meeting later to compare with your notes. Other pens just record a 10 second message, but this can be useful if you have an idea – you can record it, and then if you forget the idea before you have finished writing it, you can play it back.
  • Talking Books – many books are now in an audio version so you can still listen to stories and non-fiction books if you cannot read them.
  • Speech Recognition/Dictation software – if you have trouble writing, you can use different software which will type your dictation for you on a computer*.
  • Reading Pen – this is a pen that scans a line of text and reads it to you.
  • Accessibility Options – computers and laptops have accessibility options which provide tools such as magnifying, narration, and changing the mouse and keyboard functions. To find out more about these options, see our Accessibility Options page.

* Versions of Microsoft Windows provide a free version of speech recognition/dictation software – To access – click the “Start” button, choose the “All Programs” Menu, Choose “Accessories”, choose the “Ease of Access” menu and there you will see a number of options that may help including, Magnifiers, Narrators (to read what is on the screen), and Windows Speech Recognition.

See our section on Assistive Communication options for more details about hi-, and lo-tech options to help with communication and literacy skills.

For more information about communication difficulties, and ideas and strategies to help communication, see our Resources, or for specific fact-sheets about TBI and information and strategies for improving communication, reading and writing skills, and memory and attention skills go to the Downloads Section.


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