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Returning to School after a Traumatic Brain Injury

Children with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and their parents face tough challenges when returning to the school they attended prior to their injury.
  • The child who has suffered a TBI returns to a family, peer group, school and community that remember him or her in the pre-accident state.
  • The child also recalls his or her pre-accident life including capabilities, accomplishments, and relationships.
  • The child may not appear physically to be any different than before the accident making it difficult for others to understand the changes in personality, ability, and social interactions.
  • The child may have to discontinue activities where he or she once excelled.
  • The approach to learning will likely need to be substantially altered and the child may feel frustrated as well as self-conscious about requiring special help.
  • Relationships with peers may change dramatically depending on the age of the child and the extent of the injury. Being left out of social groups or activities previously enjoyed will be emotionally painful.
  • Teachers and parents will need to change expectations but finding and conveying appropriate expectations won't be instantaneous or easy.
  • The role of the parent changes to one of advocacy, requiring greater time and involvement.
Families should meet with students and teachers before the student returns to the classroom:
  • Parents should meet with the teachers, coaches, and students;
  • A short presentation (which can include a video provided by the rehab unit) will help improve understanding and instill appropriate expectations;
  • Allow for a questions and answers session.
The child should undergo neuropsychological testing after a TBI:
  • To assess cognitive abilities, the child should undergo neuropsychological testing. This is often not done until 3 to 6 months post injury to allow time for recovery of function.
  • Test results will help establish a baseline from which to measure outcomes, identify skills that need to be addressed and act as a guide for teachers, therapists and parents.
  • Testing should be repeated every 2 to 3 years as needed. See Pediatric Neuropsychology: A Guide for Parents (PDF Document 456 KB).

Resources

Patient Education

Pediatric Neuropsychology: A Guide for Parents (PDF Document 456 KB)
Describes pediatric neuropsychology, how it differs from a school psychological assessment, reasons for referral, what is assessed, what it will tell you about your child, and how to prepare for the test.

Tools

Information Release Form (Utah Schools) (PDF Document 51 KB)
Sample form for schools that authorizes the exchange of information between the student’s health care provider and school professionals as it relates to the diagnosis/condition listed.

Medical Home to School Summary Form (PDF Document 40 KB)
Sample form to facilitate communication between health care providers and school professionals relating to health concerns that impact a student's education.

Helpful Articles

Glang A, Tyler J, Pearson S, Todis B, Morvant M.
Improving educational services for students with TBI through statewide consulting teams.
NeuroRehabilitation. 2004;19(3):219-31. PubMed abstract

Authors

Author: Teresa Such-Neibar, DO - 11/2008