How can concussions affect students at school?

By September 19, 2017October 27th, 2017No Comments

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 Cognitive Emotional/Behavioural
Tires easily

Sensitive to light

Sensitive to noise

Fatigues as day/week progresses


Unsteadiness when walking


Visual disturbances

Neck pain



Sleep disturbance

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



Behaviour changes

Problems with motivation

Social issues (with peers)


Gets upset easily



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 Cognitive Emotional/Behavioural
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

– 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

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 [LINK to course]
  • Review other Resources [LINK to Resources page]on this website for more information on the effects of concussion on learning and learning accommodations.