One of the goals of the Virginia Concussion Initiative is to standardize the approach to a student returning to the classroom and participating in sports after suffering a concussion.
John Reynolds MS, ATC, VATL Athletic Training Program Administrator, Fairfax County Public Schools is among those participating in the initiative and has been focused on integration of academic supports for concussion management from the educator’s perspective.
“One thing I say a lot is we’ve learned that doctors don’t speak teacher and teachers don’t speak doctor,” he says. “When we talk about providing academic supports for students, cognitive rest or any of those kinds of things that fall under those umbrella terms, while that recommendation is coming from the medical community, the implementation of that recommendation lies in the hands of teachers.”
He explains that schools have an obligation to provide concussion education to parents and students and particular staff members regarding the identification and management of students with a concussion. And they also need to develop mechanisms for implementing and monitoring the return to learn, return to activity and return to play progressions.
The “return to learn” protocol is focused on the student’s academics. Return to activity and return to play are focused on physical activity. The cognitive, the academic, the physical, are all components and important parts of the health and wellbeing of the student. It’s important that each step is introduced back into the student’s life in a progressive manner.
“We look at physical symptoms first. So we may look at, are they experiencing headaches or what they describe as brain fog or difficulties concentrating. We look at fatigue and how long that they can stay to sustain their alertness, as well as any reports of attention or memory problems, um, light or sound sensitivity, some of those physical symptoms that would impact their ability to stay in the classroom,” says Nancy Como-Lesko, PhD., Pediatric Neuropsychology, Children’s Specialty Group, CHKD.
Experts agree that everyone involved in the child’s education needs to be fully informed of the student’s individualized treatment and recovery plan.
“I like to think of who gets called in the room when a child is struggling in any capacity. And I think we have to shift our thinking from thinking about struggling academically. I think historically we’ve used the word academic, whereas now it’s more appropriate to refer to it as educational, which encompasses such things as attention organization, emotional social skills, things that fall outside of reading math, science, and social studies,” says Gina Piccolini, MA
Founder/ Director Educational Success Alliance.