Brain injuries can leave students with life-long challenges. Damage to areas of the brain that control reasoning, processing information, memory, attention, controlling voluntary movements, balance and co-ordination and speech/language can significantly change a student. Also, the developmental age when the injury occurred will strongly impact the student’s learning. Luckily, there is brain enhancement that is available nowadays.
Research conducted by the Brain Association of Canada on the effects of ABI indicates a high drop-out and failure rate for students returning to school following injury. Students who are continually challenged by normal school activities that were easy for them prior to injury may respond by withdrawing and becoming socially isolated, or erupt into outbursts of anger.
Following ABI, students may retain old learning, but be unable to learn new information. Students may require significantly more time to process and integrate new information. Also, they may remember only the beginning of a lesson. Fatigue will affect the ability to remember more information. They will likely need more time to work with and review new concepts.
Deficits and their Effect on Classroom Productivity
Most students who have experienced a head injury require retraining of basic academic skills. Most of these skills recover with re-teaching and practice. However, cognitive impairments in memory, attention, organization, information processing, problem solving skills and perceptual skills will often impede recovery of academic skills.
A student’s ability to control, plan and organize behaviour is governed by the executive functioning system of the brain. Following brain injury, students may exhibit difficulty formulating attainable goals, or devising and completing a plan to achieve those goals.
A student may not be able to independently generate new ideas or move to the next step of an exercise without a verbal cue from a teacher, or in the format of a work sheet. For assignments or tests, ask questions with content and structure, not open ended questions.
Perceptual motor difficulties will have direct impact on how students learn. Students with visual neglect or field cuts may miss key information on one side of the page or miss an entire column of questions on a test. Motor planning difficulties will make it more challenging to complete seatwork. Crowded hallways can greatly affect orientation.
Each Child will Present a Unique Pattern of Strengths and Needs
A direct teaching approach, which specifically teaches new skills and memory or organizational strategies is an effective method of assisting students to retain new learning. For the initial re-entry period, teachers should focus on the most important aspects of the curriculum.
Poor attention and concentration may be due to fatigue and the child’s inability to constantly cope with the demands of the environment. Students following brain injury, including those with mild concussion, find that they cannot keep pace with the amount and speed of instruction in the classroom. Therefore, modifications to the amount of work, homework, assignments and exams will be required.
Each individual who experiences a brain injury will present a unique pattern of strengths and needs. Helping students to cope with their injury and with getting back into the routine of community life should be the foremost goal. Returning to school post acquired brain injury is not simply a process of catching up with the curriculum, it is a process of getting back into life. Most importantly, the student who feels that the teacher is making an effort at understanding and helping will likely feel less emotionally overwhelmed and more likely to seek help.