Creating a system to identify and track students who are returning to school after a concussion or closed brain injury is an important step to helping them. Often students return to school with subtle cognitive, academic, or behavioral needs. By addressing these changes and meeting students’ needs soon after their return to school, many long-term difficulties can be prevented.
Initially, it is important to inform a designated person in the school that a student has had a possible brain injury which will most likely resolve over a few days. The identified person then watches for any of the possible red flags listed below:
- Increased absences
Cognitive difficulties compared to pre-injury performance
- Trouble paying attention
- Difficulty remaining on task
- Slowed responses and/or processing of information
Difficulty shifting attention
- from task to task or from topic to topic in conversations
- reduced mental flexibility
- Organization challenges
- Reduced academic performance
Social difficulties compared to pre-injury
- Impulsive behaviors
- Initiation difficulties (trouble starting things)
- Changes in mood
If red flags appear, the designated staff person can alert the teacher to minimal temporary accommodations for the brief time that symptoms exist. Such accommodations might include:
- Reduced assignment load
- Increased time to complete assignments or exams
Use of an organizer to track assignments
- Check with teacher at the end of the day to make sure assignments are recorded
- Rest periods during the day
- Directions in both oral and written formats
- Clear expectations
- Large tasks broken into smaller components
If the student continues to have academic difficulty after a month, the student’s concerns should be further evaluated by a team, and the evaluation process for more formalized support such as a 504 plan or IEP begun. At this point, gathering more information about TBI and/or contacting a person who is knowledgeable about TBI to participate in planning is advisable.
Sources: This information was synthesized from Ylvisaker, M., Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitation, 2nd ed. Pages 381–384.
From the Center on Brain Injury Research and Training. Reprinted with permission.