An Invisible Disability: Spreading awareness and hope after brain injury

October 26, 2016

Students at presentation

"Of course we're capable of doing great things; we're capable of anything we put our minds to, with a little hard work and dedication," shared Lauren Migliaccio, a brain injury survivor and recent graduate of Colorado State University. Migliaccio, along with three other students living with traumatic brain injuries, Raleigh Heekin, Dean Graby, and Brandon Kidney, presented at a seminar sponsored by the Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado last spring. In their presentation, "Personal Perspectives on Brain Injury: Building Healthy Habits and Routines after Brain Injury," they openly discussed the challenges they face, offered practical strategies, and provided hope to all whose lives are affected by brain injury. The students have worked hard to cultivate a greater awareness regarding living with this invisible disability.

The student panelists have participated in programs through the Center for Community Partnerships (CCP). Heekin and Graby have been involved with the New Start for Student Veterans Program and Kidney and Migliaccio were members of the Opportunities for Postsecondary Success Program. As occupational therapists with CCP, Sarah Beetch and Erica Tohtz, contributed to supporting the needs of these CSU students. Beetch reported, "It was an empowering experience, as professionals involved in their journey, to see their progress showcased." Tohtz added, "This experience reaffirmed why I became an occupational therapist, and reminded me how important it is to help people share their stories with others." CCP, a community outreach and service center, provides supported education and employment services to students on campus as well as to members of the community.

In working toward a vision of normalizing brain injury, a new student organization has launched this fall: CSU Brain Injury Community (CBIC). In collaboration with CCP, Kidney and Migliaccio, created a community on campus where people can come together, share their experiences, and get involved in fun activities, all while offering support and resources to one another. Kidney, co-president and primary contact for CBIC advocated, "Ideally we want to develop a reputation at CSU of being able to effectively support students with brain injuries."

CBIC holds weekly meetings and hopes to grow their numbers as the group gains momentum in increasing visibility and assistance for students with brain injuries. For more information about CBIC visit their website at

Pictured above: Lauren Migliaccio, Brandon Kidney, Dean Graby, and Raleigh Heekin

Contact:  Linda McDowell

Telephone:  970-491-6243