When children with a brain injury return to school, their educational and emotional needs are often very different than before the injury. Their disability has happened suddenly and, in many instances, traumatically. They can often remember how they were before the brain injury, which can bring on many emotional and social changes. The child’s family, friends, and teachers may also recall what the child was like before the injury, and may have trouble adjusting their expectations of the child.
It is important to plan carefully for the child’s return to school. Frequent complaints from students with brain injury include difficulty with memory and comprehension, trouble completing the required amount of work within an allotted time, lack of energy, susceptibility to distraction, and confusion.
School systems are willing to provide accommodations to students with brain injury, but many students and parents are unaware of available accommodations. There are two important objectives when determining what, if any, accommodations are important for the success of the student. First, the parents should meet with the school’s or district’s administration to discuss the situation. Second, a thorough evaluation of the student’s academic and cognitive abilities is essential to determine what accommodations are necessary. These evaluations can be performed by neuropsychologists, psychologists, and trained school psychologists. It is important to consult with an experienced brain injury professional (such as the child’s doctor or therapist) who can thoroughly document academic strengths, limitations, and recommended accommodations. Nearly all schools require documentation of disability and recommendations in order to provide accommodations.
Examples of accommodations include:
- Allowing additional time to complete work
- Allowing for extra or extended breaks
- Grading the quality of work over the quantity of work (not how much the student did, but how well they did)
- Providing the student with the instructor’s (or detailed) notes
- Allowing the student to record classroom instruction for later playback
- Providing clear oral and written instructions
- Implementing assistive technology when applicable
- When the teacher is grading the student’s work, they may reduce emphasis on spelling and grammatical errors unless it is the purpose of the assignment
- Seat the student at the front of the classroom or near the teacher
- Not requiring the student to read aloud or present material in front of classmates
- Allowing additional time to complete tests without distractions
- Allowing oral examinations
- Assessing knowledge using multiple-choice questions
Accommodations are oftentimes listed specifically in the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP is a plan or program developed to ensure that a child who has a disability and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives specialized instruction and related services. An IEP is a flexible plan, and can be changed as the parents, the school, and the student learn more about what sort of accommodations the student needs for success in the classroom.
The All Schools – All Concussions Toolkit has a comprehensive Return-To-Learn plan for children who sustain a brain injury.