Scenario 2 – Traumatic Brain Injury

Because Everyone's A Gift

In this scenario we will explore best practices towards:• Identifying individuals with special needs
• Engaging people with empathy
• Distinguishing brain injury from signs of intoxication
• Using detection skills to rule out an incorrect conclusion
In the following scenario keep an eye out for these characteristics: • Slurred Speech
• Lack of coordination
• Poor hand eye/coordination
• Bad balance
• Trouble following directions
• Moving lethargically
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It was a sunny afternoon when Gerald received a call from someone stating that they saw a white SUV driving erratically, thinking they are driving drunk.  Luckily, he is just down the street and can catch up to the SUV. Gerald turns his siren on and proceeds to pull the vehicle over. The man driving the SUV looks anxious and frustrated. Gerald approaches the vehicle, as it’s still running.

The driver notices Gerald, rolls the window down, and shuts off the engine. Gerald inquires “Do you know why I pulled you over today?” The man responds, “No.” Gerald then asks him to grab his license and registration while informing him that “he got a call that a vehicle matching this description was driving erratically.”

The man fumbles to grab his documents out of the glove compartment and sloppily responds “here you go officer” in a slurred manner. Gerald asks “Sir, have you been drinking?” The man is unresponsive and swaying in his seat. Gerald tells the man to get out of the vehicle and proceeds to administer a field sobriety test under the assumption that the man is intoxicated. The man has trouble keeping his balance and doesn’t seem to even try to follow directions. Gerald states “Alright, that’s it. You’re coming with me,” as he handcuffs the man and guides him into the back of the police car.

What signs of neuro-divergence did the subject exhibit?

Subject had slurred speech and was swaying in his seat

The Subject Demonstrated TBI

Traumatic brain injury can have wide-ranging physical and psychological effects. Some signs or symptoms may appear immediately after the traumatic event, while others may appear days or weeks later.

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Signs of intoxication

The Subject did NOT exhibit signs of intoxication

Although some symptoms of TBI can look like intoxication, there are many other characteristics that can distinguish intoxication from this special need. Things like temperature regulation, being flush, the aroma of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, louder than usual speech…

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There are a few places that Gerald could have acted differently. Armed with knowledge about traumatic brain injury, let’s re-examine the situation.

It was a sunny afternoon when Gerald received a call from someone stating that they saw a white SUV driving erratically, thinking they are driving drunk.  Luckily, he is just down the street and can catch up to the SUV. Gerald turns his siren on and proceeds to pull the vehicle over. The man driving the SUV looks anxious and frustrated. Gerald approaches the vehicle, as it’s still running.

The driver notices Gerald, rolls the window down, and shuts off the engine. Gerald inquires, “Do you know why I pulled you over today?” The man responds, “No.” Gerald then asks him to grab his license and registration while informing him that “he got a call that a vehicle matching this description was driving erratically.”

The man fumbles to grab his documents out of the glove compartment and sloppily responds, “Here you go, officer,” in a slurred manner. Gerald notices there is no smell of alcohol but something is off. Gerald asks, “How are you doing today? Are you feeling alright? I know it’s pretty hot out today.” The man responded with a slurred “I’m fine, no worse than usual.”

 The man seems uncomfortable and irritable as he sways in his seat. Gerald then asks, “Are you having a having a reaction to something, or when did you last have water? I see that you are swaying and having trouble speaking.” The man responds “Oh, I guess you don’t know…. Here.” He passes Gerald a doctor’s note stating that he had a brain injury and can often exhibit signs of intoxication. Gerald passes the paper back to the man and continues “Do you need an ambulance to be checked out by a doctor?” The man replies “No – sometimes I have problems with my fine motor skills and slur my speech. I shouldn’t have a problem getting home, I live close.” Gerald replies, “Well I originally got the call that you were driving erratically. I would feel better if I could escort you home.” The man agrees. Gerald escorts him home safely, and they part ways.

Using his detection skills the officer in this scenario noticed there was no sign of alcohol and that the few matching symptoms were actually signs of brain injury.


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