Strategies for Schools / Teachers
Overview of strategies for schools.
There are many changes which may occur as a result of a brain injury. A child may have difficulties in talking and eating or walking and these may relate to physical changes or medical or communication complications. Changes in behaviour may be related to the injury or to the child’s discomfort following the trauma of the accident.
Common difficulties in the school environment include:
- Inability to concentrate
- Misunderstanding instructions
- Forgetting instructions
- Tiring easily
- Difficulty learning new information or concepts
- Difficulty planning complex tasks
- Difficulty organising ideas
- Difficulty organising school materials
- Difficulty in getting started on tasks
- Easily distracted by activities around them
Getting back into the swing of things!
When a child returns to school they will be using many skills learned or re-established. Going back to school will raise a mixture of feelings such as excitement, apprehension and anticipation as well as nervousness. It may be difficult to get used to being back in the classroom with its activity and distractions, as well as meeting up with friends and fitting back into their peer group. These difficulties may arise not only because of the changes in the child since the brain injury, but also because of the child’s absence from the classroom and the playground.
For some children the unstructured time in the playground is the most difficult. Having been under intensive supervision, being in the open playground can be very daunting. The child may need support during recess and lunch time until they get used to the environment again. Even so, where it is possible, it is important for the child to have unsupervised time, so that they can gradually regain their independence.
Letting people know what’s going on
In order to remove any misconceptions about the child with the injury, it is good to make sure that information is provided to all people involved; the child, their parents or guardians and siblings, the teachers, and class members. This allows people time to ask questions and voice their concerns and helps them understand what is going on and be realistic about what they can expect.
Many children manage successfully and independently, but some children may require the assistance of an integration aide in the classroom. Some children may only need a tutor or someone to help them organise their study. The rehabilitation staff in consultation with the parents may arrange suitable assistance.
Ongoing monitoring of progress
While it is important to observe the child’s progress it is also important to understand that returning to school is an ongoing process. Support needs to be monitored and may need to be continued, even once attendance at school is full-time or at its maximum.
Very often the best person to ask is the child, who will know if their needs are being met. Any gaps in progress will be revealed if they are listened to.
A formal way to pass information between all the people involved in supporting the child is to form a program support group. This group is made up of the parents, the teachers, the principal or their representative and any consultants that may be relevant from departments or rehabilitation facilities.
Each child should be understood to have unique needs since each brain injury is unique and each child is unique. There are many ways to work in the school environment to alter learning systems to suit the individual child. Some difficulties can be avoided and others can be identified as soon as possible. It is good for other children to learn that there are different ways of learning.
Friends and the peer group
Some children can experience changes following a brain injury which make it difficult for them to maintain friendships. It is important both for boosting self esteem and developing academic skills that friendships form and are maintained in the school yard and classroom. The student may need assistance to redevelop good social skills.
Link(s) to other useful online resources for schools on strategies in responding to a child/young person with this condition
BrainLink Services have produced an extensive resource guide for families of children with a brain injury and includes a section on the education system. Entitled “Growing up with Acquired Brain Injury (ABI): A Guide for Parents”. http://www.brainlink.org.au/downloads/growing-up-with-ABI_a-parents-guide.pdf
HICOA (now Brain Injury Australia) publication:
“Students with Acquired Brain Injuries in primary and secondary schools” by Leith Sterling, AGPS 1995