Supporting Your Child Who has Persistent Symptoms

Key Points:

  • A small group of students (about 2%) may experience persistent symptoms for longer than 1 year.
  • Students with persistent symptoms may be eligible to receive formal support and long-term accommodations through an IEP.
  • Certain risk factors may put your child at risk for experiencing persistent symptoms.
  • Your child may experience knowledge gaps due to persistent concussion symptoms. Tutoring support can help address a child’s knowledge gaps.

Persistent Symptoms

The majority of adolescents with concussion will recover, and will not require long term accommodations in school. However, a small group of students (about 2%) may experience persistent symptoms for longer than 1 year, and may require more formal and long-term learning accommodations. This typically takes the form of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

What is an IEP?

An “Individualized Education Plan”, or “IEP”, is a documented plan which outlines:

  • a student’s goals;
  • strategies to meet their goals; and,
  • a plan to track the student’s progress.

Creating the IEP requires collaboration and input from the student, their caregiver(s), and school team. This document is reviewed at least once per year, and is a great tool for ensuring consistency and communication between school staff and home.

A student’s IEP is often geared towards the level of support they will require. This is often communicated in the form of a “Designation Category”.

What is a Designation?

Adolescents who are on an IEP, are often identified with a category of need based on the level of impact, or intensity of impairment, that interferes with that adolescent’s ability to attend and participate in school. Therefore, a medical diagnosis itself does not qualify a student for a designation or IEP.

Individual school districts determine a student’s eligibility for designation.

Medical documentation and/or an assessment (eg. psychoeducational or neuropsychological assessment), may be required to put this type of support in place.

Typical Chronic Issues

The following chronic issues are commonly reported by adolescents and may qualify for an educational designation:

  • Chronic headaches
  • Persistent thinking problems related to memory, attention/concentration, and/or processing speed
  • Diagnosed mental health issues such as anxiety and/or depression

It’s important to recognize that over time, it is the impact of the persistent issue which will continue to interfere with your child’s school participation, rather than the initial concussion injury itself. Therefore, the educational intervention provided, should target the persistent issue and its impairment on school functioning.

Risk Factors for Persistent Symptoms

Some adolescents, with the following risk factors, may experience prolonged recovery timelines:

  • History of prior concussion(s)
  • History of learning disability
  • History of ADD/ADHD or other developmental disability
  • History of migraines/headaches
  • History of depression/anxiety/mood disorder
  • Sleep disorder

If your child has one or more of the risk factors, they may require accommodations for a longer period of time.

Refer to Concussion: Persistent for more information.

Gaps in Learning Due to Concussion

Certain subjects such as math, reading/language arts, and science, are reported as more challenging following concussion. This is because in these courses, your child needs to master one concept before they can take on the next one.

Your child may also have a hard time keeping up with learning following a concussion, and therefore might miss some course concepts - causing a knowledge gap. Your child may feel like they are having a hard time catching up; they may also feel like they are falling behind. This can be particularly problematic as your child moves through grade levels, and course content increases in difficulty.

The good news is that this doesn’t mean your child’s concussion isn’t healed. But it might mean that they need a little extra support, such as tutoring, to fill in the gaps and help them get back on track.

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