Concussions are more common among school-aged children than any other group, and their symptoms can be debilitating. A student with concussion symptoms may not be able to take a full course-load or learn as easily in class because of difficulty concentrating, headaches, memory issues, irritability, fatigue, and other symptoms. That’s why a return-to-learn protocol is essential. Watch the video above to hear from Esther Lovett and Noah Bond on their return-to-learn strategies, and read below for our tips on returning to school after concussion.
Don't Push It
Everyone’s concussion recovery journey is unique, but the experts generally advise that patients do not try to push through physical or cognitive symptoms. Following immediate rest after a concussion (for how long? Read more here), best practice suggests to gradually increase a concussed student’s cognitive load and enable them to return to school as tolerated. If the student struggles and symptoms increase or return, that’s a sign to take a step back.
This might mean students struggle to read for more than five minutes at a time, cannot look at a computer screen, are sensitive to light or noise, or need frequent breaks while in class. It is important for students to be honest about their symptoms and know their limits to avoid increasing their symptoms and delaying their recovery.
Get Your School Involved
Teachers and school staff need to know if a student is suffering from a concussion. After a physician (need to find a concussion specialist? Check out our Concussion Clinics tool to find one in your area) clears a student to return to school, the student and his or her family should work with the doctor to communicate his or her symptoms and necessary accommodations to teachers and faculty. Teachers can help monitor a student’s symptoms and work with the student to gradually increase their workload while keeping track of missed assignments and assessments.
Coordinating with school nurses and medical staff is also recommended. The school nurse is often the quarterback of a school’s return-to-learn program, and can coordinate communications and execute physician-prescribed return-to-learn plans. Many school nurses also encourage students recovering from concussions to utilize their office for a quiet, dark place if a student needs to rest during the school day.
Find An Advocate At School
Emotional support is critical during concussion recovery, especially among teenagers. A student with a concussion would benefit by finding an advocate, whether it’s a friend, teammate, coach, teacher, nurse, or school support staff member. An advocate who understands concussion symptoms are invisible but very real can speak up when the student may not feel comfortable. A student having someone in their corner while they are at school will lower the likelihood that they try to push through symptoms, and help make sure they receive the care they need at school.
It is important for students and parents to remember almost all people who suffer a concussion will feel back to normal within a matter of a few weeks. Even for those who have prolonged symptoms, rest assured the symptoms as they exist today won’t last forever. Those who have overcome Post-Concussion Syndrome often talk about focusing on small victories and taking the concussion recovery process one day at a time. The brain does not heal overnight, but if a student has the right return-to-learn program, finds a concussion advocate, and stays positive, they have their best chance to recover as quickly as possible.