Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and School Treatment

According to the published report “Mild traumatic brain injury: a neuropsychiatric approach to diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment”, Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI, “…is a common occurrence in the United States, with an estimated incidence exceeding 1 million injuries a year.” TBI is a big topic. It’s getting a lot of play in the news, in medical journals, in sports related discussions. It’s something that has been, historically, treated when severe and ignored when mild. And in both cases, the effect of withholding treatment can manifest in long term problems. From the published report:

“Given the large number of persons that experience mild TBI each year, it is indeed fortunate that the majority or these individuals recover fully within the first year following TBI. However, a nontrivial minority of persons with mild TBI, with estimates raining between 1% and 20%…will develop persistent cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and physical impairments that extend well into the late (> 1 year) following TBI.”

TBI Diagnosis

TBI can be diagnosed through a variety of tests. The Glasgow Coma Scale (measuring a person’s ability to speak, ability to open eyes, and ability to move) is one. There are also cognition and neurophsychological tests, as well as imaging tests such as CT or MRI scans.

TBI is classified as either mild, moderate, or severe.

TBI and Children

Whether during a game (organized or otherwise), or during an accident, if a child hits their head, they need to get tested. According to an article from the ASHA Leader by Roberta DePompei, the “effects of a TBI in childhood are not fully realized right away and, in fact, new challenges can emerge after the individual has become an adult.” As we said earlier, there are immediate effects, and there are long term effects. Each have their challenges, and each can inhibit progress, development, and growth.

An article on, a website dealing with “preventing, treating, and living with Traumatic Brain Injury(TBI)”, has a parents’ guide. Though focusing on rehabilitation from a moderate or severe injury, author Cynthia H. Bonner taps into the heart of the matter:

“Your child’s ability to cope with or develop strategies for dealing with these changes will vary depending on many factors. Some of these may include your child’s previous coping skills, her intellect and personality, the support available from friends and family, her emotional health, the strength of her relationships, the stage of development she was in when injured, and the extent of the injury.”

Returning to School with TBI.

Say your child is diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury. Treatment is in place, the prospects are good, and you’ve done everything you can do. What’s the next step? If your child is out of school, how can you prepare for their return?

According to an article on, “school personnel should be contacted as soon as possible after the injury to plan for the student’s return to school. School personnel can also connect the student with services they need while they are not in school.”

Each school will be different, and each school district will have their own plans in place. So it’s important you coordinate with your physicians and your educators. Ask a lot of questions and do a lot of research. Contact your school district, look into your school’s IEP and 504 plan. There’s lots you can do to prepare, and a good amount of resources out there to help you do it.

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