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Information for Educators Regarding Students with Concussion

Concussions are serious brain injuries that have a significant influence on the brain’s ability to function at its normal capacity. The key to recovery from a concussion is both physical and mental rest, followed by a gradual progression back to activity, both in athletics and in the classroom. Most concussions resolve within a few days or weeks, so the management of a concussed student may be no different than that of one who missed a few days due to minor illness.

However, some concussion symptoms linger and have the potential to cause long-term academic and social difficulties for the student. If unmanaged, these problems have the potential to significantly impact the student’s academic career as a whole.

Proper management of a concussed student in the classroom by his or her educators can allow the student to continue making academic progress through accommodations designed to help prevent permanent damage to the student’s academic record. An educator’s involvement is vital.

Concussion signs and symptoms

Though it is an invisible injury, a concussion can affect a student in many different ways. Common concussion symptoms are:

Physical

  • headaches
    nausea/vomiting
    fatigue or low energy
    sleep disturbances
    vision changes-double or blurred
    tinnitus
    dizziness or balance problems
    sensitivity to light/noise

Mental

  • slowed thinking or confusion
  • fogginess
  • slowed reaction times
  • impaired judgment or attention
  • easily distracted
  • impaired learning and memory
  • disorganized
  • problem-solving difficulties

Emotional

  • frustration
  • irritability
  • restlessness
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • personality changes

Effect of symptoms in the classroom

There is no way to predict which symptoms will be the most significant for a student because symptoms will vary from day to day and even within a single class period. Therefore, at the initial contact with the student after injury, an in-depth conversation should occur that will help the educator target major barriers to learning and achievement.

To identify where the student may struggle, the educator should ask specific, open-ended questions that focus on concussion symptoms that have the most impact on school and that specific course. Examples of such questions are:

  • How is your ______________today? (Insert a symptom such as headache, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, etc.)
  • Are you having trouble focusing or concentrating?
  • Are lights and/or noise worsening your symptoms?
  • Have you had trouble remembering things? What do you seem to forget?
  • What are you having the most trouble with in class?

Once the initial and most significant problems are identified, modifications and accommodations can be made that address each issue so the student may continue coursework, but not overload the healing brain. The student should be encouraged to report any changes in symptoms or issues so further alterations may be made. Continuous communication with the student is important.