Making Academic Accommodations

Even though they may be academically-strong students, concussed kids may struggle to return to normal in the classroom. Sometimes what they hear is comparable to what Charlie Brown heard when his teacher spoke…       “Wa wa wa wa…”

Athletes recovering from concussion can appear normal to school personnel, to parents and to their friends. However they can still be facing significant limitations. Physical changes may include headaches, changes in balance and coordination, visual changes (including sensitivity to bright light), sleep disturbances and fatigue.  Cognitively, the athlete may also be experiencing symptoms.  These can include attention and concentration difficulties, difficulty understanding complex directions, difficulty expressing thoughts and ideas, short-term memory impairments, trouble with reasoning and judgment, and a difficulty to multi-task.  The athlete recovering from concussion can become easily overwhelmed and irritable – and is often overly fatigued.

Teachers and Counselors should be aware that concussion is a brain injury that can impair normal brain function. As a result, cognitive activity may be impaired while the athlete recovers. Teachers and Counselors should watch for subtle changes in the student-athlete and report them immediately to the Athletic Trainer or Coach so the athlete will continue to be withheld from physical activity:

  • Poor attention span
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Reduced short-term memory recall
  • Delayed processing
  • Inability to complete routine tasks
  • Easily distracted
  • Sensitivity to light/noise
  • Irritable or Withdrawn

Here’s some advice for making academic accommodations for student-athletes recovering from concussion (accommodations will vary depending on age level of athlete and severity of concussion symptoms):

  1. Recognize that academic performance may decrease while the healing process takes place. Be patient and allow the brain a chance to heal.
  2. Depending on the athlete’s symptoms, it may be necessary to reduce the number of classes the athlete attends while recovering. In order to fully heal, the athlete needs to rest – both physically and cognitively.  It is also important that the athlete pace himself/herself while cognitively active. While in class or doing homework, encourage the athlete to take frequent breaks. A general rule of thumb is to have 10-minute rest breaks every two hours.
  3. Allow athletes who are recovering from concussion extra time to complete assignments and tests.
  4. Encourage teachers to provide written instructions on assignments when possible and encourage the athlete to tape record class lectures.  Obtaining class notes from peers might also help. Teachers should also email parents with homework instructions.
  5. Utilize quiet environments for studying.
  6. Refrain from giving the athlete any significant or standardized tests while he/she is symptomatic.
  7. Encourage the athlete to get ample sleep. 
  8. If symptoms persist, consider the implementation of a 504-Plan so that accommodations are guaranteed to be implemented.