How will the brain injury affect my child at school?
“When will my child be able to go to school?”
“How will the brain injury affect my child’s education?”
“Will my child need special help at school?”
Leaving the hospital or rehabilitation program is a big step in your child’s recovery. Even though your child may still need outpatient therapies or follow-up care, the medical crisis is behind you.
Some of the changes caused by your child’s brain injury may be obvious; others may be less visible. Some may be temporary; others may last for a long time. It is even possible that some changes from the brain injury may not show up for months or even years. As time passes, it can be hard to sort out changes that are part of growing up and those that are related to the injury.
Unlike hospital and rehabilitation staff who have special training and programs for children with brain injuries, most school teachers have little experiences in this area. This means that careful planning must be done for your child’s return to school.
Many parents have commented that their child’s physical recovery was so quick that it seemed “miraculous.” Physical progress over the first year is usually quite rapid and can give a child the appearance of being fully recovered. This can give educators and parents a false sense of a complete and quick recovery.
Over time, many parents find that the cognitive (or thinking) recovery is slower and these changes can make it harder for the child to learn at school. Control over behavior is also slower to improve and relationships with teachers, classmates, family members, and friends are often affected.
Changes in how a child thinks, learns, and behaves after a brain injury can be so minor that they are hardly noticeable. However, changes can also be so great that the child seems like a “different person.” Between these two extremes are many children – each of them with a unique personality and abilities that have been touched in some way by the brain injury.
CAUTION! Schools are more familiar with students with mental
retardation, autism and birth related conditions. The needs of a
student with a traumatic brain injury are different. You may need to
educate them about traumatic brain injury.
The list below includes changes that are common among children with brain injuries as they return to school. Not all will be seen in every child. They may even vary each day or over time. Other people and activities may affect them as well.
- tires easily and needs extra rest
- has trouble with memory and is forgetful
- needs help starting and finishing tasks
- has trouble concentrating
- has trouble following directions
- is irritable and short tempered
- hits others, breaks rules, speaks out of turn
- is easily distracted
- acts on impulse
- acts younger than their age
- can’t seem to get organized
- doesn’t fit in with classmates
- makes embarrassing comments
- share this list with rehabilitation staff and discuss the areas that affect your child
- develop a plan with the rehabilitation staff to prepare school staff
- learn strategies from rehabilitation staff to respond to any changes in your child, especially changes in behavior, emotions and memory.
- contact parent support groups to discuss coping strategies
Information provided from the “Traumatic Brain Injury in Children and Teens: A National Guide for Families” by the Dartmouth Medical School and the New Hampshire EMSC Project.