Concussion affects children of varying ages differently. Here are general things to consider at each developmental stage.
In general, the younger the student, the longer it takes to recover from a concussion. This is due to a lack of maturity of the brain. Elementary school children are more likely to complain of physical problems or misbehave in response to cognitive overload, fatigue or other concussion symptoms. Recognize that these behaviors may be the result of a child’s concussion. Visit our "Adapting the Classroom for Concussion" section to learn about academic accommodations and for tips to address special needs and deficits caused by concussion.
Peer relations are very important to middle school students. They can be extremely sensitive to being different and may try to minimize symptoms so as not to stand out. It is particularly important that parents, teachers and the medical team communicate with each other and monitor the student’s social functioning and its impact on academic performance. Also, the demand on executive functioning, such as setting goals and planning ahead, are new skills for students in middle school, so organizational problems may have a greater impact on academic performance.
This is a time when students are often very busy. They attend school for most of the day, sometimes taking honors, advanced placement or college prep classes, have substantial homework at night and often have one or more extracurricular activities after school or on weekends. Therefore, help the student to prioritize activities and reduce overall demands in order to reduce fatigue, headache and other symptoms.
Executive functions such as planning, organizing and problem solving are increasingly important for students during this time. After a concussion, it is more likely for the high school student to lose track of homework assignments, have more difficulty planning how to approach a project or paper, or tend to arrive to class without the necessary text or materials. If symptoms are subtle, these difficulties may go unnoticed for extended periods of time due to the limited time students spend with a single teacher during high school. Maintaining good communication among the school staff, parents and medical team is essential so symptoms are recognized early.