As more is learned about the subject of brain injury in children, new pathways are being identified for how educators can support students returning to school post-concussion.
Gina Piccolini, MA, Founder/ Director Educational Success Alliance, has focused her graduate work on building school capability to effectively serve students recovering from brain injuries.
“If a child has complicated symptoms from a concussion, who is not recovering in a typical time period, then we’re using what I’ll call general educational supports to address whatever their needs are at that time. This could be giving them extended time for completing assignments, or dimming the lights, or things like that. But what happens when what they need exceeds what is typical for a concussion patient’s recovery?”
At this stage, if the student needs more, a formalized plan may be required, explains Ms. Piccolini. That’s where the school may shift into a higher level of formalized attention to the situation to support the student’s recovery, making accommodations for the student.
In other words, a point is reached where the child either recovers and they’re good to go, or the education system must look at formal supports through special education or a 504 plan so that the child continues to participate in schooling with needed accommodations. The 504 plan is about making accommodations to meet the student’s needs during recovery from the brain injury.
Accommodations mean access, making schooling accessible to students in a way that they can benefit and participate. For example, a student might need headphones in allowed environment because they become overloaded from a sensory perspective and have a meltdown. Another example would be needing to have a test read to the student because their reading comprehension is compromised. Accommodation means looking at how the school can change the way it is doing something so the child can access it.
What can be done to better serve students returning to school after a brain injury? Teacher training in the field of brain injury, concussion education as well as basic awareness information on brain injuries would be helpful, says Ms. Piccolini. “The more trained ears and eyes you have on the ground, the better able they can pick up on things happening with a student, identify things sooner and get needed systems in place,” she says.