When a child sustains a brain injury it can take time for cognitive issues to become evident – in many instances they may not manifest until sometime after the injury was sustained. Starting, or returning, to school following a brain injury is a major milestone to be celebrated, whilst also bringing with it a whole new range of considerations for both parents, the local education authority and the school. Arrangements put in place to support your child need to be regularly reviewed and updated as your child develops to ensure they are fully supported to allow them to achieve their full potential.
Many children can return to mainstream schools following a brain injury whilst some children, with more complex needs, will require a specialist school. Details of specialist schools catering for those with a brain injury can be found in our A-Z Directory.
Common issues children face following a brain injury, which could affect their education, include:
- Communication problems
- Executive functioning skills
- Emotional issues
- Physical disabilities
Returning to School following a brain injury
The key to successful re-integration is good communication and planning. Your child may find this a difficult time; they will be back with friends who do not perhaps fully understand the extent of their injuries, and may expect to pick up their friendship where they left off, but your child may be unable to do as much as before, get extremely tired, or struggle with self-esteem, confidence and emotionally.
It’s important to work closely with the schools Special Educational Needs and Disability Co-Ordinator (SENCo/SENDCo). It is imperative to fully explain to them how your child’s brain injury may affect their learning – if not fully briefed, the school may mistakenly label your child as ‘naughty’, disruptive, lazy or rude.
Ideally, the SENCo or Headteacher should be included in discharge planning meetings before leaving hospital, so that they benefit from information given directly by medical professionals. This is not always possible, but in order for the school to be able to support your child, it is important they thoroughly understand what your child has been through and issues that may arise in the future. The school has a responsibility to arrange training, to prepare your child’s peer group on how he/she may have changed and to purchase specialist equipment.
It is likely your child will be placed on Special Educational Needs (SEN) support. You will need to be fully involved in discussions around the support your child requires, and the SENCo should arrange regular assessments to monitor progress and react accordingly when changes are needed.
If it is apparent that your child’s challenges are going to be significant when they return to school, then requesting an Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment should be a priority so that an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) can be put in place. This can take up to 20 weeks to complete, so should be started as soon as practical before your child returns to school.
Types of support that should be considered
Each child is different and will require different levels of support. However, the SEND Code of Practice 2015 sets out four broad areas of difficulty with education:
- Cognition and learning – a Teaching Assistant (TA) or Learning Support Assistant (LSA) may be required to assist during lessons on a 1:1 basis or to work with your child in small groups.
- Communication and interaction – input from a Speech and Language Therapist (SLT) may be required or a programme may be devised which the TA/LSA can deliver.
- Physical and Sensory – additional help may be required for mobility, in the form of equipment or the TA/LSA may need to keep a close watch over them for safety reasons.
- Social, Emotional and Mental Health – your child may display emotional problems in many ways, including anger, insecurity or seeing themselves as different from their peers and having less ability. Support by way of a key worker should be available and a plan put in place where they can excuse themselves if a situation becomes overwhelming or they are suffering fatigue.
Education and brain injury useful case studies
Tegan’s story – My life with Cerebral Palsy, An animated letter to my class mates
Tegan was diagnosed with Quadriplegia Cerebral Palsy. A bright 14-year old, Tegan created an animated film produced to help explain to her school mates about her ‘differences’; Tegan refers to herself being ‘dif(ferently)-abled’ and not disabled.
Tegan talks about her diagnosis, her family, her home and also about her school life. She highlights how the worst bit of the school day is walking down the corridor between lessons and how she copes with the uncomfortable stares of her school mates. She ends the video with a pertinent reminder…
It’s not disabled, it’s DIF-ABLED!!! P.S. Don’t look and stare!!! Just SMILE and be aware!!!
Tegan’s dif-ability video
The ways Brain Injury Group can assist
If you have concerns about your child’s education following a brain injury, our members can assist. Specialists in their field, they have the experience and knowledge to advise you on steps that can be taken.
We can assist by:
- Providing behind the scenes advice on how to request a Statement of Special Educational Needs
- Representing you when challenging a SEN at the Special Education Needs & Disability Tribunal (SENDIST)
- Requesting an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP)
- Challenging Local Authority decisions
- Advising on inclusion of educational needs when bringing a claim if the brain injury was sustained as a result of an accident
Get in touch with the Brain Injury Group
If you’ve been affected by brain injury and need free legal or welfare advice, there are several ways to get in touch:
- Call us on 0800 612 9660 or 01737 852203
- Email us at [email protected]
- Complete this short enquiry form and we’ll get back to you