When Can Kids Go Back to School After a Concussion?
What Is a Concussion?
A concussion is a brain injury that affects the way the brain works and can lead to symptoms such as headache, dizziness, and confusion. Symptoms usually go away within a few days to a month with rest and a gradual return to school and regular activities. Sometimes, the symptoms last longer.
When Can Kids Return to School After a Concussion?
Most kids need to rest for a few days after a concussion. After that, though, symptoms usually are better and students are ready to go back to school. When a child's symptoms are tolerable for 30–45 minutes (about the length of a class period), health care providers will likely clear them to go back to school.
Even when they're cleared to go back to school, kids might not be cleared for sports. Keep your child out of sports, physical education (gym) class, and other activities that may lead to another head injury until your health care provider says it’s OK.
How Can a Concussion Affect Learning?
Many kids return to school after a concussion and have few or even no symptoms. But some may:
- have headaches
- have blurry vision
- feel tired
- have trouble concentrating or remembering
- be sensitive to light
- feel sad or irritable
What Kind of Support Can My Child Get at School?
Check with your school to see if they have a policy to help kids return to school after a concussion. Work as a team with your child and their health care provider, teachers, principal, the school nurse, speech pathologist, and psychologist to make a plan for your child’s return to school. If your child plays a sport at school, the coach and athletic trainer should also be involved.
The plan might include:
- starting with a shorter school day
- taking rest breaks
- avoiding activities that take concentration, such as quizzes or tests
- taking fewer classes
- having extra time for assignments, homework, quizzes, and tests
- school-provided class notes and study guides
- making schoolwork up during vacation
- wearing sunglasses due to light sensitivity
Students whose concussion symptoms continue or get worse may need a more formalized plan like a:
- 504 plan or IEP to make sure they get the services they need
- response to intervention protocol (RTI) to make sure they get better as expected
What if My Child Has Symptoms at School?
If your child has symptoms that are new or severe enough to interfere with learning, they should tell the teacher and go to the school nurse. They can try resting for a few minutes and then go back to class. If symptoms continue, your child may need a shorter school day, less schoolwork, or more support. Talk to your health care provider if your child isn’t able to do their usual level of schoolwork within 2 weeks of being back in school.
How Can Parents Help?
Kids need support and encouragement as they recover from a concussion. Some might feel sad or frustrated. Or they might feel embarrassed because they can’t do what they used to or need special treatment. It might help them to talk to a counselor or psychologist.
Remind your child that the best way to heal quickly is to follow the health care provider’s directions about school and other activities. Most kids are back to school and all the activities they enjoy within a few weeks to a month.