Meeting Your Child's Educational Needs

Introduction

Parents ask,

"When will my child be able to go to school?"

"How will the brain injury affect my child's education?"

"Will my child need special help at school?"

Leaving the hospital or rehabilitation program is a big step in your child's recovery. Even though your child may still need out-patient therapies or follow-up care, the medical crisis is behind you.

Some of the changes caused by your child's brain injury may be obvious; others may be less visible. Some may be temporary; others may last for a long time. It is even possible that some changes from the brain injury may not show up for months or even years. As time passes, it can be hard to sort out changes that are part of growing up and those that are related to the injury.

As your child gets ready to go to school, you need to know:

  1. how the brain injury will affect your child's learning now and in the future
  2. how educators can help your child

Unlike hospital and rehabilitation staff who have special training and programs for children with brain injuries, most school teachers have little experience in this area. This means that careful planning must be done for your child's return to school.

This chapter will help you:

Special Note: Many children go directly home from the hospital. Others go to an in-patient rehabilitation program. This chapter will help you work with rehabilitation professionals from either the hospital or rehabilitation facility to prepare for your child's return to school.

How Will the Brain Injury Affect My Child at School?

Many parents have commented that their child's physical recovery was so quick that it seemed "miraculous". Physical progress over the first year is usually quite rapid and can give a child the appearance of being fully recovered. This can give educators and parents a false sense of a complete and quick recovery.

It was a couple years until I realized just how serious her problems were in school. We were so relieved at her physical progress that we just assumed everything else would get better as well. When they started talking about keeping her back a grade, I knew she was in trouble.

Over time, many parents find that the cognitive (or thinking) recovery is slower and these changes can make it harder for the child to learn at school. Control over behavior is also slower to improve and relationships with teachers, classmates, family members, and friends are often affected.

Changes in how a child thinks, learns, and behaves after a brain injury can be so minor that they are hardly noticeable. However, changes can also be so great that the child seems like a "different person". Between these two extremes are many children–-each of them with a unique personality and abilities that have been touched in some way by the brain injury.

Caution: Schools are more familiar with students with mental retardation, autism, and birth-related conditions. The needs of a student with a traumatic brain injury are different. You may need to educate school staff about traumatic brain injury. Contact the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire for free in-service training.

The list below includes changes that are common among children with brain injuries as they return to school. Not all changes will be seen in every child. Even when changes are evident, they may vary each day or over time. Other people and activities may affect these behaviors as well.

Suggestions

For more information, see Coping with New Behaviors in Your Child and Family.