Learning after an acquired brain injury

The classroom and education are critical for all developing young people. When a pupil is returning to the classroom after an acquired brain injury, knowing how to best support their needs is imperative. A new resource is here to help.

An acquired brain injury (ABI) can affect people in different ways. For this reason, it is important to tailor support and assistance to each individual. In a bid to guide education professionals teaching a child or young person returning to the classroom after an ABI, a revolutionary new educational resource has been established from leaders working in brain injury for children and young people.

Launched by the National Acquired Brain Injury in Learning and Education Syndicate (N-ABLES) at The Children’s Trust National Paediatric Brain Injury virtual conference in May, a new booklet has been created which is set to remove barriers pupils may face.

UNDERSTANDING

Entitled ABI Return – Children and Young People with Acquired Brain Injury – guiding their return to education, the resource is tailored to ensure the return to school is successful.

“Outside of the family home, school is the place that young people spend the majority of their time,” explains Dr Gemma Costello, head of psychosocial services at The Children’s Trust.

“When staff have an understanding of ABI and promote consistency of interventions it enables the young person to access the educational setting in a manner that demonstrates an understanding and commitment to their ongoing recovery.”

For some children and young people, an ABI can result in minor problems with memory to more long-lasting changes such as physical and/or learning disabilities. Additionally, some children and young people also experience changes in personality and behaviour.

The booklet is designed to help minimise any avoidable issues that pupils may experience in the classroom to ensure every child gets the education they deserve.

CHILD CENTRED

Targeted towards those aged four to 18-years-old and highlighting the impact of ABI on education, it is hoped the resource will ensure pupils are adequately supported and not left behind.

Dr Costello continues: “Returning to an education setting is frequently cited as one of the most difficult aspects, with many children and young people finding school both familiar, yet completely different.

“The nature of ABI means there is the potential for difficulties to be hidden, cumulative and evolving. The return to school can often bring new insight into challenges that young people experience whilst also being protective as they return to an environment they know, with people with whom they are familiar.”

Ensuring pupils are at the centre of planning and preparation will better assist education professionals to allow pupils with an ABI to participate in learning and feel included in the classroom.

Dr Emily Benett, consultant clinical psychologist at Nottingham Children’s Hospital, explains: “We hope that ABI Return can be a stepping stone towards a national approach to co-ordinating the return to school for children and young people post ABI.”

And getting the right assistance is key. “With an estimated one child in every classroom being affected by brain injury, and teachers playing an important role in a child’s development, it is crucial teachers and school staff know where to turn for support should the need arise,” emphasises Katie Roberts, head of voluntary fundraising at The Children’s Trust.

TRAINING

Furthering awareness for education staff, after a recent All-Party Parliamentary Group report entitled Time for Change, it was highlighted that teachers should have a basic understanding of ABI.

From better equipping teaching professionals with improved information to understand ABI, or raising awareness of the educational requirements for children and young people with an ABI: improved knowledge will better support young learners.

This targeted knowledge will soon be available from The Children’s Trust’s new free fast-track session. Alongside providing rehabilitation, education and community services, The Children’s Trust will be collating information that will better improve the experiences of pupils with ABI in the classroom.

Katie explains: “We bring together information that gives professionals a good, basic understanding of ABI. In the session we define ABI, we detail possible symptoms and how they may manifest in a school day and affect learning, and we share ways teaching professionals can support children with ABI. We’ve worked closely with teachers too, so it is set in the context of a school.”

Complete with fact-based evidence, diagrams and scenarios explaining brain injury further with recap quizzes, the initial session will provide a base understanding of ABI. Further in-depth training is in the works for teachers who want to advance their learning on the topic.

With some brain injuries not presenting or evident, the more focused training for professionals to support pupils who are likely to encounter with a brain injury has never been more important.

When welcoming a pupil back into the classroom, Dr Bennett advises: “Listen to the child and their family, ask one another what works and don’t expect every day to be the same. Plan for the highest level of support and be prepared to monitor and change according to the young person’s needs which will likely change over time.”

Dr Costello also highlights the importance of recognising a pupil’s strength and skills, alongside new hurdles that may arise. She explains: “Young people need school to be paced according to their needs with regular rest breaks; and review your pupils’ needs over time.”

With tailored support available from the new booklet and training session, plus the expertise of charities such as The Children’s Trust, pupils with ABI will have the best chances to thrive.

A copy of the education resource is available here, with further information on acquired brain injury in the classroom available from The Children’s Trust on 01737 365000.

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