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Concussions: Academic Accommodations for Students


WRITTEN BY: Sports Medicine
Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Concussions are complex brain injuries that require the body to rest in order for proper healing to occur. Because each injury is different, the experts at UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program develop individualized care plans specific to the need of the patient.

The main symptoms of a concussion fall into four categories: physical, cognitive, emotional, and sleep. Within each of these categories the more common symptoms include:

Just like your body needs rest after an injury, the brain needs to rest mentally after sustaining a concussion. One of UPMC’s concussion experts, Jonathan French, PsyD, says, “If you or your child is diagnosed with a concussion, there are academic accommodations that teachers or school administrators may put in place to assist in the student’s recovery based upon the needs of the individual student.”

After an evaluation by a health care provider trained in diagnosing and treating concussions, the following are some of the academic accommodations Dr. French and his colleagues may recommended as part of the treatment process:

  • Extension of assignment deadlines. Speed of processing and the ability to handle a full workload are often key limitations. Allow extra time for homework and class projects.
  • Temporary assistance of a tutor to help with organizing and prioritizing homework assignments. Students may have substantial problems planning their studies, writing papers, and preparing for tests. A short meeting with a guidance counselor or an assigned tutor may help students prioritize their work.
  • Rest periods during the school day. Just 30 minutes of rest in the nurse’s office or a designated area can help lessen many students’ symptoms.
  • Accommodations for over sensitivity to light or noise. Many students find themselves unable to tolerate normal levels of light or noise while recovering. Fluorescent lighting can provoke headaches. Students should try to avoid noise from cafeterias, assembly halls, or band rooms.
  • Excused from certain tests. Some students are so symptomatic that postponing or staggering tests may not provide sufficient accommodations. In such cases, the most appropriate step may be to excuse students altogether from tests, specifically in classes where they were performing well before their concussion.
  • Extended test-taking time. Reduced processing speed is one of the most common post-concussive symptoms. Give students extra time to finish tests.

If you have questions about these academic accomodations, please contact your concussion specialist. For more information about the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program, call 412-432-3681.

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Sports Medicine

UPMC Sports Medicine is the region’s largest and most experienced center dedicated to caring for athletes of all levels. For more than 25 years of world-class care, we’re proud to offer more services, have more physicians, and treat more student athletes than any other sports medicine provider in the region. Read More