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Now School after Brain Injury

Going back to school posed new challenges.

Brain Injury Blog

Now School after Brain Injury

by Madeline Uretsky

Back to School

Towards the end of the summer, I started to think about how my first day back at school would be with my brain injury aka as the “invisible injury”, and how the year would go in general. Would I be able to make it through my first class? A whole school day? Do homework after school? Have a regular social life? Keep up with my schoolwork? There were so many things to consider and think about upon my return. I had missed a year of school and still had a brain injury. This was going to be a challenge.

The first few days of school went so much better than I could have imagined. All of my teachers were understanding, my school provided me with the accommodations I needed, and I kept up with all of my schoolwork. As I expected, though, I was extremely worn out and tired all of the time. My headaches were severe when I got home from school and it was difficult to concentrate on homework. I also had trouble falling asleep at night. Math class was the biggest challenge because looking at a graph and colored charts for the first time in over a year was a struggle. It provoked headaches and frustrated me when I wasn’t able to look at them for long periods of time in class or during homework. In general, I now have to study for tests much longer in advance than I had to before so that I can retain all of the information. Sitting in the front of the classroom helps me to concentrate during class, and taking tests outside of the classroom helps me to gather my thoughts at my own rate without the pressure and noise around me.

As the year has gone on, the transition has become easier. I still use my accommodations but definitely less often than I did at the beginning of the year. The graphs in math class do not bother me as much anymore and I have continued to keep up my grades and my social life to the best of my ability. Recently, I have been going to physical therapy to work on fixing the damaged muscles in my neck, and I’m hoping that this will offer me some relief from my pain. I still have to wear sunglasses in the classroom at times, and I also wear them whenever I am outside or have a bad headache. The lights are still dimmed or off most of the time in my house and the shades are still often shut. Recovering from a brain injury is a lot of hard work, and the progress can be very slow, but little by little, there is progress. I find that I cannot measure my improvement on a daily basis, because it is so slow, but when I look back several months, I can see that there is some.

Every day at school, I am still symptomatic but to a lesser degree now, and some days are worse than others. I still have the constant headache, the sharp pains, light/noise sensitivity, trouble concentrating, fatigue, and some memory problems. I no longer have balance problems, my listening comprehension has improved, I have less headaches, I can walk up a hill without provoking more headaches, my sleep has improved, my concentration has improved, I am less fatigued, I can read faster than in the beginning of the school year, I can socialize more and I can go to different, more commotion filled places. One of the things I have found most helpful is the journal I have been keeping throughout my recovery. I tracked my daily progress in the beginning, and that tracking gave me something to do, and was something that I could control. I recommend writing things down or journaling to anyone with a brain injury.

Since suffering my brain injury, I have become much more sympathetic towards others. I look at life in a different way; I am more accepting of everyone and look at the good in each person.

Any type of brain injury, even a “minor” concussion, is a serious matter. Since every person’s brain is unique to them, so is every brain injury. There is no standard recovery rate or severity of symptoms, so parents, school administrators, teachers, coaches, players, and students need to learn how to recognize the symptoms of concussions and brain injury, and take a proper course of action for each person to recover. Although concussions are called the “invisible injury”, they are very real, and must be treated properly in order for healing and recovery to occur.

February 4, 2013