Talking with teachers about acquired brain injury
This section offers ideas for talking with teachers about acquired brain injury.Acquired brain injury isn’t always well understood in the world at large.1 Some parents say they hadn’t heard of it themselves before their child had an acquired brain injury. So it’s understandable that some teachers may not know a great deal about the condition. It’s often up to a child’s parents to pass on the knowledge they’ve picked up along the way. This section aims to give you ideas about how you can talk with teachers and other education professionals about acquired brain injury. You can always direct them to our site, which has dedicated information for teachers. Read more here. It’s in the classroom that some of the most common misunderstandings about acquired brain injury can happen.2 The fatigue some children experience might be misunderstood as laziness, or poor concentration as a bad attitude.3 We’ve included some ideas for talking about what acquired brain injury is, how the effects of the injury may make themselves known, and how a teacher can help. Hopefully, the misunderstandings can be avoided as much as possible if parents talk to teachers and vice versa.4 If our on-line resource has been useful to you, then perhaps you could pass on the website address to your child’s teacher. You could always print off relevant pages to hand over. You may want to print off or email our dedicated teachers’ guide here. Teachers may welcome information about acquired brain injury, especially if they are not very familiar with the effects that can result from ABI.
- Teachers are very involved in the Special Educational Needs process. Read our guide to this process.
Defining acquired brain injuryIf we go back to our original definition of acquired brain injury: “You might hear it shortened to ‘ABI’. The ‘acquired’ part means only that the child wasn’t born with their injury – it is something that has happened later.” Other key points to get across are:
- Children and adults are affected very differently by acquired brain injury.5, 6
- An injury can happen when a child’s growing brain ‘still has unfinished business’. And a child may not go on to pick up some of the skills they otherwise would have.7
- Some children make a full physical recovery, but there may be ‘hidden’ effects of their brain injury that aren’t easy to spot.8
- Some of the effects of acquired brain injury may take weeks, months and sometimes years to come to the surface.9 Some may only become clear in secondary school.10
- While there are some broad things we can say about acquired brain injury, each child responds completely differently.11, 12
- Nobody has all the answers with acquired brain injury. It’s not clear at what speed recovery will take place, or if a child will ever be quite as they were.13
But a teacher will probably want to know what a brain injury means in the classroom in a very practical sense. If we look again at some common effects of acquired brain injury, we can see how some children may find learning environments difficult.
- Weakness of limbs, difficulties getting around.14
- Tiredness, struggling with concentration - often talked about as ‘fatigue’ by professionals.15, 16
- Changes in behaviour - irritability, behaving impulsively or inappropriately.17
- Difficulties learning new things.18, 19
- Problems with memory.20
- Difficulty processing information.21
- Emotional difficulties such as anxiety or depression.22, 23
- Difficulties understanding and using language, difficulties keeping up with conversations.24, 25
- Difficulties organising and planning26, 27, difficulties carrying out everyday tasks.
- Difficulty with empathy- putting themselves ‘in someone else’s shoes’, and awareness about their own situation.28, 29
What sort of information would a teacher need?This checklist may be useful in thinking about what you can tell a teacher.32 (With many thanks to Sue Walker. Drawn from her book Educational Implications of Acquired Brain Injury: a resource for educational psychologists.)
- When and how the injury happened
- The type and severity of the injury
- How old your child was at the time of the injury
- How the recovery has gone so far
- Were there any other children at the school or in the family involved in or witness to a traumatic brain injury?
- Does your child have any sensory difficulties?
- Are there any physical difficulties that might affect your child’s school life? (access to classrooms, PE)
- Your child’s strengths and weaknesses – perhaps they struggle with concentration or communication
- Do they have any therapy requirements which might have an impact at school?
- Do they require any special devices or equipment?
- How is their personal care? Do they struggle with any aspects of daily living?
- Do they take any prescribed medication?
- Do they have seizures?
- Are there any other safety precautions to think of?
- Do you or your child have any particular concerns about the return to school?
- Are there any behavioural difficulties?
- Do you have other children at the school who may be affected by all the changes that have happened in the family?