Working with Teachers and Students

The rehabilitation team may visit your home to help you figure out how to make your home safe if your child uses a wheelchair, needs special equipment, or has difficulty getting around. Ask if the team can also visit the school to see the classroom, building, and recreational areas. If this is not possible, you can help the rehabilitation team see what your child's school is like by taking pictures.

Because of the brain injury, your child may move slowly, too quickly, or seem awkward and clumsy. This means that your child may be at a higher risk for falling at school or may tire more easily.

The size and arrangement of classrooms may affect your child's ability to concentrate and to see and hear clearly. Getting around the school requires not only a sense of direction but memory and organizational skills to get from one place to the other. Some students become lost or confused after a brain injury and have difficulty finding their way from one class to another.

Therapists can prepare your child for school by knowing:

In-Service for School Staff

Your child will have contact with many more people at school than just the teachers. There are cafeteria workers, aides, administrative staff, bus drivers, playground supervisors, and many others. The less visible the effects of your child's brain injury are, the harder it will be for school staff to understand how changes in your child's thinking and behavior are related to the brain injury.

Suggestions

TIP: Do an in-service program every year for new teachers. Include teachers from previous years to share their experiences and suggestions to prepare new teachers.

Written Information

Your child's teacher and other school staff may lack experience, training, or formal education about brain injury. However, they may be very willing and interested to learn more. The Reading Resources for Families/Educators guide lists books about educating students with brain injuries. Copy it and give it to all staff working with your child. Ask rehabilitation team members if they have additional recommendations for reading.

Preparing Classmates

Classmates may not know what to expect when your child returns to school. They may assume your child will now be retarded or unable to talk, or that your child will act and think strangely. Young children may be fearful or fascinated by changes. If your child "looks okay", classmates may assume that your child is able to do everything that they can do. Meet with school staff in advance to discuss how to prepare classmates. Arrange plenty of time and opportunity for classmates to ask questions both before and after your child returns to school. Consider these options:

Regardless of who does it, the point is to:

  1. Explain how your child was injured.
  2. Prepare classmates for how your child has changed or may "seem different".
  3. Discuss ways classmates can help your child.
  4. Describe what your child is able to do and any special help your child needs.

One of Jennifer's classmates asked if she would remember her. I explained that she might remember her face, but not her name. I showed her friends how they could cue her without embarrassing her by saying, "It's me, Cindy." instead of "Do you remember me?"

TIP: Consider the age of classmates. Younger classmates may confuse injury with illness. They need to know that a brain injury is not something they can "catch" like the flu. Younger children are often eager to help once they are given suggestions.

Reactions of older students, especially adolescents, are often more complicated and judgmental. They may be more critical of the student who no longer "fits in" or can't keep up. Or they may not appreciate that the student who "looks okay" may have difficulties with memory or use poor judgment. Adolescent peer pressures for sex, drugs, and alcohol pose special risks for the student who has had a brain injury.

Suggestions