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Returning to School

Updated Jul 31, 2019

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Returning to Learning

Most people are able to return to school within a few days or weeks after concussion. Sometimes it can take longer. Self-management strategies, like pacing and stress management, can help with a successful return to school.

You don’t need to be completely symptom-free to return to school, but your symptoms should be manageable. It is helpful to return gradually. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) gives general guidelines [pdf] of the different stages of a gradual return to school.

Return to school

Talking About Your Concussion

It can be helpful to let your instructors know about your concussion so they can support you.If you need an academic concession or accommodation, you will need to speak to a Disability Resource Advisor at your school. A Family Doctor’s note is usually required and normally includes a diagnosis, with a list of limitations and recommended supports. It may include a timeline for when to re-evaluate the need for supports.

  1. Waiving typical requirements of a school program for extenuating (often medical) reasons. These could include late withdrawal from a course after the deadline, or a waiver from a test/exam without penalty.

  2. Formal supports intended to help people with disabilities have equal access to learning (e.g. extra time for tests, access to a note taker).

Common Academic Accommodations

Sometimes, students need temporary formal supports called accommodations for returning to school after a concussion. Examples of common accommodations include:

  • A quiet space to take tests
  • Access to course notes
  • Extra time for assignments and tests
  • Alternate test formats

If you think you need accommodations, you should talk to your health care provider(s) and your school’s Disability office. They can help decide what supports you may need.

Learning and Study Strategies

General learning & study habits:

  • Do schedule your study time for a time of day when you are at your best
  • Don’t cram! Study in short chunks (30 - 45 minutes), with more study sessions over time.
  • Do take breaks. Take at least 10 minutes every hour.
  • Don’t study late into the night - sleep helps with learning and focus
  • Do remove distractions like tv, smartphone, podcasts and music

Check out this short video (3:25 minutes) for more info on science-based study skills.

Where to Get More Information or Support

For more learning and study strategies, talk to your school advisor. Many schools offer study skills help in person or online. Take advantage of your instructors’ office hours, or arrange to meet with the course assistant if there is one.

The Disability Resource Advisors at your school and your family doctor can help put together a return to learning plan that works for you. In some cases, other healthcare providers like an Occupational Therapist, Psychologist, or Speech Language Pathologist may be recommended by your family doctor or the Disability Adviser for additional guidance on managing your return to school. Information on how to access other healthcare providers can be found in the article Becoming an Informed Consumer.

Taking Action!

Action 1: If you are considering a return to school, talk to your family doctor, instructor, and find more about your school’s Disability Resource Centre and what they can offer.

Action 2: Which of these strategies will help you manage your return to school better? Do you need to use some of these study skills? Make an action plan! Make sure you share the plan with a trusted person you can follow up with. Do you need to build up your tolerances before you start a return to school? Create a plan gradually increasing your cognitive demands and your participation in other areas that can influence your return to school.

  • School Considerations [pdf]
  • Return to School Schedule [pdf]
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