Traumatic Brain Injury Can Affect Students’ LearningVictims of traumatic brain injury have been referred to as the walking wounded. They often suffer in relative silence to the world outside because their injuries are invisible to and not easily understood by other people. The loved ones of the victims also suffer as a result. It can be difficult to understand the nature of the struggle and suffering unless you have the injury or live with someone who has the injury.

Children who sustain TBIs can suffer significant effects, including to their cognitive abilities. Since the brain is affected so directly by a TBI, a child’s ability to learn in the classroom can also be affected for the long-term. Children’s brains continue to develop until approximately age 7. A brain injury suffered at a very young age may not be fully apparent until the child reaches the school age where he or she is expected to be able to begin to use higher cognitive skills. One easy way to understand this is to recall the flash cards and simple books that we and our children used to learn to read – “See Spot Run.” Acquired brain injuries often affect discrete areas of the brain, leaving intact non-affected areas.

TBI effect on classroom performance

A child who suffered a brain injury as a toddler may have not difficulty learning to read basic words.  However, when this child reaches the first- grade level and is expected to be able to read to learn, not just learn to read, the previously un-noticed frontal lobe damage may begin to manifest in the form of impaired comprehension, retention and other skills. Cognitive symptoms may also include inability to concentrate, behavioral problems, and memory problems.

It may be necessary to tailor the student’s academic learning environment or the activities the student engages through individualized education plans (IEPs) for students who must learn differently due to their acquired brain damage.

Symptoms of TBI in students

A concussion is a TBI. There is now heightened awareness of the dangers posed by concussion to student athletes. Teachers and other education professionals should look for these symptoms in students coming back into the classroom after a concussion:

  • Increased problems learning new information or remembering past information
  • Increases problems with concentration and paying attention
  • Impulsive or otherwise inappropriate behavior
  • More time needed to complete assignments or other tasks
  • Excessive emotions and/or problems functioning within a stimulating school atmosphere, i.e. noise and lights
  • Physical symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, and/or headaches
  • Sensitivity to bright light or loud noise
  • Reduced ability to handle stress
  • Reduced ability to change between tasks effectively or stay organized

Younger children may not communicate the unique symptoms they suffer after a concussion because they are not as articulate in describing what is bothering them. If you suspect your child has suffered a TBI, pursue medical attention for him or her as soon as possible.

How teachers and parents can work together to help students with TBIs

In order to determine if a student is ready to return to the classroom after a traumatic brain injury, the student will need to be examined by a healthcare professional experienced in diagnosing, evaluating, and treating TBIs. The type, number, and severity of the student’s symptoms will determine his or her readiness to return to school. The medical professional examining the student can provide guidance on the degree of cognitive and physical activity that is best for the student. You may want to give your child’s teachers or classroom monitors permission to monitor the function and behavior of your child, and share those observations with you or with other medical professionals who may be involved in the student’s care and recovery.

At Phelan Petty, our Richmond traumatic brain injury attorneys have the resources, talent, and experience to help you recover compensation, if you or a loved one has suffered a TBI resulting from someone else’s negligence. To go over your case with a free consultation, give us a call today at 804.980.7100 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. We represent clients throughout Virginia.