How Can Concussions Affect Students At School?

A concussion can affect a student’s physical, cognitive, and emotional functioning. These symptoms can have an effect on their learning in the following ways:
  • Physical

  • Tires easily
  • Sensitive to light
  • Sensitive to noise
  • Fatigues as day/week progresses
  • Restlessness
  • Unsteadiness when walking
  • Headaches
  • Visual disturbances
  • Neck pain
  • Dizziness/lightheadedness
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Cognitive
  • Tires easily
  • Decreased academic achievement
  • Attendance issues
  • Late/incomplete homework
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty remembering
  • Easily distracted
  • Difficulty organizing
  • Slowed information processing
  • Difficulty multitasking
  • Difficulty understanding concepts
  • Difficulty expressing themselves
  • Difficulty reading
  • Difficulty learning new information
  • Emotional/Behavioural
  • Irritable/angry
  • Sad/depressed
  • Behaviour changes
  • Problems with motivation
  • Social issues (with peers)
  • Frustration
  • Gets upset easily
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
Symptoms can be situational and triggered or exacerbated by elements in the environment. For example, a student may experience a headache in the classroom from the fluorescent lights but the headache subsides when the student goes outside.

A healing brain has to work harder to accomplish anything which leaves limited energy for other tasks. For many students this limited energy is compounded by:
  • Changes in their sleep patterns
  • Overexerting themselves
  • Feeling pressure to keep up with schoolwork
  • Dealing with the emotional impacts of concussion

Learning Accommodations

Learning accommodations are changes to schoolwork, expectations, or the learning environment that teachers can use to support a student with specific learning needs. Learning accommodations are individual. What works for one student may not work for another, and performance may fluctuate daily. If learning accommodations are used for a student, a teacher can monitor their effectiveness and adjust as needed.

The following are some examples of how teachers can support a concussed student’s return to school:
  • Physical

  • Frequent rest breaks
  • Allow student to wear sunglasses/hat, noise reducing earplugs
  • Seat student away from windows or bright lighting
  • Preferential seating to reduce distractions
  • Allow for a modified timetable
  • Access to a quiet space for breaks
  • Restrict classes with noise and/or safety issues
  • Allow class transition before bell
  • Restrict physical activity including PE, team sports, recess, and lunch break
  • Cognitive
  • Reduce:
    • Amount of time at school
    • Academic expectations
    • Work loadLimit time focusing on school work
  • Prioritize essential school work
  • Avoid stimulating or noisy environments
  • Provide a quiet space for schoolwork
  • Provide class notes
  • Frequent rest breaks
  • Allow extra time to complete tasks
  • Allow access to the learning support teacher
  • Consider tutoring support
  • Emotional/Behavioural
  • Provide opportunities for socialization
  • Allow student to remove themselves from situations they aren’t tolerating well
  • Provide avenues for student to express themselves
  • Access to school counsellor/psychologist
  • Provide supportive feedback/reassurance
Ultimately, the goal of learning accommodations is to support the student in participating in school to the best of their ability and to avoid:
  • Exacerbating symptoms
  • Delaying their recovery
  • Having a negative impact on grades or social relationships
For more information:
  • School professionals can refer to the CATT online educational module for School Professionals
  • Review other Resources on this website for more information on the effects of concussion on learning and learning accommodations.