RETURNING TO SCHOOL AFTER A MILD TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY?

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A “concussion” is a brain injury, and even a mild concussion can have serious ramifications for individual long-term well being. At the acute injury stage, which is often in the Emergency Room, health care professionals try to balance the discussion, avoiding a diagnosis of “brain injury,” but the reality is that no one knows for certain the extent to which the patient will experience symptom burden that will delay return to normal activities. This is particularly true when children suffer head injuries. In the case of children, normal activities often focus upon “return to school”.

I have long held the belief that many health care providers lack the knowledge base from which to successfully counsel parents and schools about re-integration of a child with a mild traumatic brain injury or concussion with regard to returning to school. My views have evolved over years of consulting with parents about their children in the context of personal injury claims, and in turn, viewing medical treatment records that lack the type of attention to detail and advice that indicates an adequate knowledge base in the field.

Not only is it imperative that primary care providers, usually a  pediatrician, be well-versed in the area of acquired head injury, but it is likewise critical that school faculty, administrators and staff be familiar with the type of accommodations that must be tailored for each student on an individualized basis in order to reduce the enormous anxiety that can arise for the student and family with extended absence and inability to resume and maintain the pace of learning. And in this regard, it is imperative that health care providers and schools work collaboratively in assessing the needs of the child and implementing an appropriate plan of reintegration. A recently published article on this subject, authored by the esteemed pediatric neuropsychologist Gerard A. Giovanni, Ph.D., appears in the January 2016 edition of Journal of Child Neurology and is entitled “Medical-School Partnership in Guiding Return to School Following Mild Traumatic Brain Injury in Youth” (the link is to the abstract of the article).  Other resources addressing the return to school can be found at the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.

By Stewart M. Casper. Posted December 30, 2015.

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