Teachers Guide to Concussions in the Classroom

Sep 20, 2019 by

Despite the best efforts of parents, coaches, and teachers, kids get injured sometimes. Sometimes, it’s nothing but a bump or scrape, but in other cases, a child may suffer from ongoing challenges as a result of an injury. Serious injuries like concussions most often occur during team sports, but their effects can extend into the classroom.

Teachers play a pivotal role in helping student-athletes recover after a concussion, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). By making slight changes in the classroom, you can help injured students heal faster.

Injuries in the Field

Concussions during practice and games are a real threat to students’ long-term health and well-being. These sports-related concussions (SRCs) are very common, affecting about 1-1.8 million children and teens age 18 years and younger each year.

When an SRC occurs, traumatic brain injuries and other serious problems can come up. Some children and teens recover from a concussion in just weeks, but a few may need long-term therapy and rehabilitation. Obviously, prevention is ideal, but contact sports like football, hockey, basketball, and wrestling involve some risks, so teachers need to be prepared.

Things That May Change for Concussed Students

Students who experience a concussion may go through some changes, at least temporarily. Injury to the head can cause cognitive and academic deficits and changes in energy levels or ability to focus. Not only does this make their schoolwork more challenging, but it can be frustrating for student-athletes who are used to being able to perform at a higher level.

These deficits may be temporary or affect a student’s academic career long-term. In either case, teachers can help by first gathering information about the changes in a concussed student’s behavior or abilities. Many students with a concussion experience comprehension and memory issues, have trouble focusing, have low energy levels or need more frequent breaks, have trouble processing information, or develop behavioral or emotional problems.

Use any information you have from the student’s medical team, the parents, or the student-athlete’s coaches to understand the challenges they may be going through. Once you are aware of what difficulties the student is having, you can adapt your approach.

Guiding Students Through Temporary Change

Classroom management can get tougher when one of your students gets a concussion, especially if the injury creates behavioral issues that did not exist before. One of the best ways to help students through this difficult time in their lives is to provide structure and support according to their needs. Keeping the class on the same schedule and providing frequent but planned breaks can help establish new routines and make focusing easier for the child with the concussion.

When a child with a concussion acts out, it can be difficult to maintain your patience. It’s not always easy to respond with empathy and compassion to bad behavior, but it’s important to react in a positive, constructive, and firm way.

Adapting Learning Strategies to Meet Students’ Needs

Since a child with a concussion may be lagging behind the rest of the class, at least temporarily, it’s important to anticipate these challenges and create learning strategies and resources to help the concussed student overcome their specific difficulties and catch up to the class.

Some general ways teachers can help concussed students include reducing the overall workload and providing extra time to complete tests and assignments or makeup work. Educators might also want to consider creating notes for each lesson or recording classroom sessions so that the student can go over the information again at home.

Many concussed students have focus problems. Removing distractions and keeping each assignment short and specific can help improve concentration and learning. There are all kinds of different techniques that can be used, depending on the issues the student is having.

Even though you may need to make accommodations, it’s important to do so discreetly. A concussed student might feel embarrassed or worse about their situation if everyone in the class knows that they’re “different.”

Making it Work

It can feel pretty overwhelming when a student’s behavior or abilities change due to a concussion. The most important thing to remember is to be flexible. No two children with a concussion will have exactly the same experience. You will need to adapt in order to make things work. Fortunately, most concussion symptoms wear off after a few weeks and your student should soon be back to their old habits.

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