Return to Learning After a Concussion

Thousands of kids and teenagers suffer from concussions each year. Many of them are sports-related.  As the school year starts and fall sports begin, like football and soccer (which are major culprits), we treat concussions quite frequently here at Child Neurology Consultants of Austin.

Many parents are aware of the steps needed to follow before their children can return to play sports again after a concussion, but did you know there are also important things to consider when returning to school/learning after a serious head injury?

After a concussion, it may be necessary to reduce school-related activity and stimulation for a few days. However, total inactivity may cause anxiety, deconditioning, headaches and sleep problems. Adding low impact activity and instruction as tolerated can help to increase blood flow to the brain and improve recovery and symptoms. Your child’s symptoms can help guide their return to normal learning and physical activity.

When can a child return to school after a concussion?

Every concussion is different, so recommendations will vary from child to child on when they should return to school. A thorough evaluation with a board-certified pediatric neurologist specializing in concussion care and management will help establish the best timeframe. Factors  your provider might take into account in determining when they can safely return to school include:

  • how many concussions has your child previously had
  • how severe are their symptoms
  • do they have any other additional or underlying physical or mental health issues

Most students can typically return to school within a few days after a concussion if their school and instructors are cooperative and able to provide any temporary accommodations as needed.

What can parents do to ensure their student’s safety and success when returning to school following a concussion?

The number one thing a parent can do is to assemble a trusted team to support your child when they head back. Hopefully most school staff members will already know your child well and have a good sense of what his or her capabilities were in the classroom before the injury.

Those who should be made aware of their concussion include their current teachers, school administrators, school counselor, school nurse, any gym teachers or coaches as well as any additional specialists they might regularly see like a reading or speech therapist.

Other ways to ease your child’s return to the classroom following a concussion are:

  • Look into temporary IEP (Individualized Education Plans) or 504 plans to provide academic accommodations allowing for extra time on tests and assignments, reduced homework loads, or using open notes and memory aids as needed.
  • Speak with administrators about a personalized/modified bell schedule for your child so they may leave class a few minutes early to avoid crowded hallways and passing periods.
  • Discuss alternative areas to go for lunchtime where they might be more comfortable instead of a noisy cafeteria.
  • Seek exemption from PE classes if advised by your physician, but have the coach help encourage some form of light physical activity during that time such as walking.

Also be sure to check in with your child often about their emotional and mental health after a concussion. They may feel scared, anxious, or embarrassed about returning to school. Let them know that you have a plan in place to ease them back into their regular routine and workload and that their teachers will be there to support them along the way.

Helping them to stay connected with friends and favorite activities (to the best of their physical abilities at this time) is also a great way to keep spirits up during the recovery process.

To learn more about the prevention and treatment of pediatric concussions, visit the CDC’s Heads Up program or download our All About Concussions handout.

We offer extensive concussion care and management as well as expedited concussion services for injuries that occur outside of clinic hours (as they often do in sports).

Child Neurology Consultants of Austin has experience treating a wide range of neurological conditions in children and teenagers from 0 to 21 years old. To make an appointment with one of our board-certified pediatric neurologists, please contact us here.

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