Back to School

FIVE ways to make the transition smoother

Going back to school after summer vacation is both exciting and nerve-wracking. Going back to school after TBI is mostly just scary – for you and your family. Your friends will be happy to see you and see that you are back to your old self. But you probably don’t feel like your old self. The trauma you experienced has changed you in many ways.

Being in school will be different, too. It will be harder, you’ll need accommodations, and most of all you’ll need understanding. Here are 5 ways to make the transition smoother, whether you’re 6 or 16.

  1. CommunicateMake sure your school knows about your TBI, the challenges you’re adjusting to, and how they may affect going back to school. Be open about what you’re struggling with: cognitive difficulties, fatigue, visual problems, etc., and tell them you may need breaks.
  2. Educate: Teachers, counselors, and even your friends may not know about TBI. You and your family can educate them. It is an acquired injury, different from a learning disability. It’s hard to see and unpredictable emotionally, behaviorally, and academically. It will take time to learn what works best for you now–in the classroom and out.
  3. Team up: You, your family, doctors, and the school must work as a team. Regularly meet and discuss strengths and weaknesses, problems and progress. Always build on your successes. Collaboration and flexibility make all the difference. Put your heads together to evaluate – and reevaluate – strategies and accommodations.
  4. Speak up. Be a self-advocate. Only you know how it feels – maybe your head is spinning, falling asleep, having headaches, or feeling depressed. Say something – tell your parents, your teacher, or someone else you trust. Remember – it’s not you. It’s your brain injury.
  5. Know your rights. The law is clear. If TBI interferes with your ability to learn, the school has to make accommodations to help. When I went back to school I had a note-taker, fewer classes, and extra time. Without them, I couldn’t have accomplished what I did. It’s like a ramp for students who can’t climb steps. They just need it to get into the school building. It’s not a luxury. It’s not cheating. It’s just fair.

Oops. I’m talking too much. It’s time for my next class.

PS: Check out these Back to School resources