During the summer, David was injured when the car his friend was driving swerved to avoid a deer and hit a telephone pole. David was not wearing a seat belt. David hit his head very hard against the dashboard and windshield of the car. When David was finally released from the hospital, he looked fine.
Once David returned to school in the fall, his teachers started to notice that David was not the same student they knew from the previous school year. David was having trouble concentrating and remembering and his personality was different. David used to be a happy and upbeat student and now he was always tired and depressed. David's grades were slipping and he was starting to have behavioral problems in school. David sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
David's parents didn't notify the school at the time of his injury because they didn't realize that he had sustained a TBI. It wasn't until his teachers contacted his parents about the changes in his school performance that the connection between the accident and the changes in David's functioning was made.
David's teachers and his parents were attentive and responsive to the changes in his functioning. A medical review and a neurological evaluation confirmed the link between David's accident and the changes in his behavior and performance. They confirmed that David had sustained a TBI. These records were reviewed and included in a Multifactored Evaluation. Through the Evaluation Team Report, David was determined eligible for special education service and the areas in which he needed accommodation and support were identified.
Many times this connection between a previous injury and a student's performance is not made, particularly when the injury is on the mild end of the continuum. Often the symptoms that David presented are misinterpreted as problems of adolescence and or noncompliant behavior and are inappropriately addressed exacerbating the problems for the student and his or her educators.
What your school can do for a child like David ...
Your school can provide the educational supports and services a student with TBI needs to be successful. Schools have the responsibility of meeting the needs of all students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA), the federal law that provides for special education services for all students with disabilities.
Despite its high incidence, many medical and educational professionals are unaware of the educational consequences of a TBI. Often, students with TBI are inappropriately classified as mentally retarded, emotionally disturbed or learning disabled. Appropriate identification and classification of students with TBI is important to ensuring that they receive the appropriate evaluations and services.
When a student returns to school after a TBI his educational and emotional needs are likely to be very different. Although children with TBI may seem to function like children with other disabilities, the sudden onset of a severe disability resulting from TBI is very different than being born with a disability. Often, children with TBI can remember how they were before the injury and develop emotional and psychosocial problems dealing with the significant change to their lives. The TBI impacts family, friends, and professionals who remember what the child was like prior to injury and may have difficulty adjusting their goals and expectations to how the child has changed.
Schools should carefully plan for the return to school for students after a TBI. Coordination between hospital/rehabilitation and the school is very important to ensure a smooth transition. Any planning should include appropriate evaluation, transition planning and services.