Returning To School

After a student is free from symptoms or has rested for two days maximum, a gradual return to school can begin. It is important that students follow a controlled, gradual return to school. One of the most common problems during recovery is returning to full activities too soon.

Return to School

The Return to School tool will help guide students to return to school before they return to play sports. The goal of working through the Return to School stages is to increase cognitive activity gradually without exacerbating symptoms.

Return to School Plan

Inform the school and teachers that a student has sustained a concussion as soon as possible so that planning for the student’s Return to Learn Plan can begin. You may want to set up a meeting with the principal, teacher(s), learning support teacher, and school counsellor to discuss the best Return to School Plan for the student.

Collaboration with the student and their support system will help manage all aspects of the student’s return to learn – at home and at school. The student’s support system could include:
  • Parent or guardian
  • Classroom teachers
  • Administrators – principal or vice principal
  • School counsellor
Other resources may include:
  • Learning support teacher
  • Hospital or homebound teacher
  • Education assistant
  • School psychologist
  • School coach
  • Peers
In some cases, the student may have health care professionals that may need to be included. This could be:
  • Doctor
  • School nurse or public health nurse
  • Physiotherapist
  • Occupational therapist
  • Social worker
  • Mental health professional
  • Students could also have other caregivers for example, after school care providers or extended family members
The key individuals in the student’s support system can be documented on the Return to Learn planning tool.

If symptoms worsen during any activity, STOP the activity. Once symptoms have returned to their previous state, return to a reduced activity level or reduce the time spent within the activity.

For example, if reading for 30 minutes produces a headache, the student should stop reading. Once the headache has resolved, the student can resume reading, but for a maximum of 20 minutes. After 20 minutes of reading, they should take a break from activities requiring concentration. If the student remains headache-free after the break, reading can resume for another 20 minutes. This can be repeated several times in a day as tolerated.

The time it takes to successfully return to school varies with each individual concussion.

Increasing schoolwork

Usually schoolwork will begin at home where the environment can be better controlled. The student should start with schoolwork that has a low demand on the brain. Help choose work that they enjoy and is a strength. Consideration should be given to how much thinking and stimulation is involved. The work should be at the student’s current level and therefore less likely to overwork their brain.

Students should not be expected to catch up on missed schoolwork or maintain current schoolwork if they have missed a considerable amount of time. A detailed Return to Learn plan provide direction in regards to testing, homework, and other learning accommodations. It is important to provide the school with input from both family members (parent/partner/caregiver) and the student when decisions about workload are being made or when the plan is reviewed.

For some students, falling behind in schoolwork is difficult. This might cause the student to increase the agreed upon workload, or to continue to work despite experiencing an exacerbation of symptoms. These students may need closer monitoring and reassurance to prevent a more prolonged recovery.

For more information on returning to school: