After experiencing a traumatic brain injury, many teens are eager to return to their daily routine–going back to school and reuniting with their friends. They can often remember how they were before the brain injury and are hopeful that things will go back to “normal.” It is important to anticipate any changes that may occur, which may not be evident until they step into a classroom. The effects of a traumatic brain injury vary from person to person, depending on the location and force of the impact, but can lead to academic issues if your teen or their teachers are not aware of how their executive functioning may have been affected.
Some signs to look out for that may affect school performance include:
- Physical changes: Individuals with TBI may have problems speaking, seeing, hearing, and using their other senses. They may have headaches and feel tired a lot. They may also have trouble with skills such as writing or drawing. Their balance and walking may also be affected, leading to changes in their physical activity or needing mobility aids.
- Difficulties with thinking: Because the brain has been injured, it is common that the person’s ability to use the brain changes. For example, children with TBI may have trouble with short-term memory or long-term memory. People with TBI may have trouble concentrating and only be able to focus their attention for a short time. They may have trouble listening to others and following along without interrupting. Reading, particularly small print, may lead to headaches or fatigue.
- Social, behavioral, or emotional problems: These difficulties may include sudden changes in mood, anxiety, and depression. Children with TBI may have trouble relating to others. They may be restless and may laugh or cry a lot. They may not have the same level of motivation in school that they once had or may become discouraged more easily. They may struggle with adapting to a new routine and worry that others will treat them differently. As their friend group may change, they may struggle with feelings of loneliness and identity issues.
Academic Support after a Traumatic Brain Injury
- Give directions one step at a time. If the bigger picture feels overwhelming, it helps to break it down tasks into smaller steps. Written directions can help teens with memory issues keep track of their progress.
- Have consistent routines. This helps the student know what to expect. If the routine is going to change, let the student know ahead of time.
- Check to make sure that the student has actually learned the new skill. Give the student lots of opportunities to practice the new skill. Students who are taught to memorize information are less likely to encode this information into their long-term memory.
- Help them get organized. Show students how to use an assignment book and a daily schedule to keep track of deadlines and to avoid procrastinating. Keeping separate notebooks for each class also helps them return to notes more easily.
- Be flexible about expectations. Be patient. Many of the academic issues they experience may not be noticeable right off the bat and may only come up with more difficult critical thinking problems. Recovery from a traumatic brain injury is not linear. Recognize that they may get tired quickly and may need additional time to understand and complete assignments.
Curriculum Designed to Prepare Students for Independence
Our goal is to help prepare students who have struggled with executive functioning issues for problems they may face in the real world. Our teachers present material in a way that helps students apply lessons learned to their personal lives, which increases their motivation to participate in class discussions. To help students learn self-determination, New Focus Academy teaches Utah Common Core Curriculum with a focus on the Essential Elements:
- Life skills: self-assessment, critical thinking, problem-solving, decision making
- Function math: using calendars, counting money, budgeting, measuring (including volume)
- Functional language arts: reading instructions, identifying important information, reading schedules, using adaptive tools independently
- Community-based living: using public transportation, shopping, time-management, planning for emergencies
- Social-emotional learning: emotional regulation, social & physical boundaries, internet safety, job-specific social skills
If your child is struggling with academic issues after experiencing a traumatic brain injury, a residential treatment center that offers individualized academic support can help your child regain confidence.
New Focus Academy Can Help
New Focus Academy is a residential treatment center for boys ages 12-18 who struggle with autism or other neurodevelopmental disorders, like traumatic brain injuries. The mission of the program is to use positive reinforcement to increase the student’s self-esteem and independence. The skills they learn at New Focus will help them learn to have positive social interaction, organization, and a clear sense of judgment. Students are given the opportunity to gain the confidence they need to foster and maintain healthy relationships and lifestyle habits. We can help your family today!
Contact us at (844) 313-6749 to learn more about our academic programming.