Returning to School After a Traumatic Brain Injury: What Parents in NYC Need to Know
If you are a parent whose child suffered a TBI, we know how challenging it can be, especially now that your child must return to school. Like you, many parents usually worry and have to deal with lots of uncertainties.
What if your child can no longer cope with the standards of the school system? How best do you help your child return to school like every other kid? What if the demands of formal education become overwhelming for your child after a TBI? These are just some of the questions that parents have often asked us at James Newman, PC., and we can understand your fears.
Researchers believe that providing instructional therapies and services needs to be done right within the first year that immediately follows a TBI. This is because the level of healing that occurs during this period is usually the most important and will play a huge role in the future rehabilitation of your child.
Yes, we know that traumatic brain injury is very common in the United States. But there’s one problem – A lot of education and medical experts may not fully grasp how a student can be affected by childhood brain injury. They have a tendency to see students with TBI as kids with mental retardation or emotional disturbance. Other times, they see the student as someone with a learning disability. This perception is wrong and limits your child from receiving the help and assistance that they truly deserve educationally.
HOW TBI AFFECTS CHILDREN AT SCHOOL
Depending on how severe the injury is and the brain area that was affected, a student with a TBI will exhibit different symptoms. Some of these common issues range from mild to debilitating and include –
- Socially inappropriate language
- Lack of inhibition
- Issues with memory and communication
- Defiant behavior and mood swings
- Poor judgment
- Physical problems
- Problems with paying attention or focusing
You should also know that parents and teachers may start to detect new issues as the child develops. The reason is that students must use their brains in totally new ways as they grow. But an earlier injury to the brain can cause damage, making it difficult for a child to learn the new skills associated with growing up. It can also be hard for parents and educators to understand that earlier injury is the cause of the child’s difficulty.
PLANNING TO RETURN TO SCHOOL
If your child suffered a traumatic brain injury and has to return to school, you should know that they are emotional and educational needs will have changed. As such, what they need at this point is SPECIAL EDUCATION.
Suffering a childhood brain injury must have been sudden and traumatic. Your child knows how he/she was before the injury and this could lead to possible social and emotional changes. Apart from your family, their friends and teachers also remember how your child used to be before TBI. It can be hard for these people to adapt or change in terms of what they expect from your child. That is why you have to plan carefully before your kid returns to school.
At James Newman, PC., we believe that one of the most critical factors when a child returns to school after a TBI is parental involvement. As a parent, you know more about the child and are genuinely concerned about their future. You can go the extra mile to see that your child receives the necessary support for a successful return. You may also work to see that the school receives the medical information necessary to come up with the best plan and structure for your child. You may also have to work with vocational rehabilitation experts if your child is about to leave school.
That means you need to be in early contact with the school personnel to plan for the return of your child.
KNOWING YOUR CHILD’S RIGHTS WHEN RETURNING TO SCHOOL AFTER A TBI
You need to find out early how the school organizes its special education services. School systems in New York are mandated to have special programs aimed at successfully helping and reintegrating students with disabilities. Many schools have trained special educators, but some special educators may not understand the full scope of a brain injury and how it affects your child’s needs. Keep in mind, also, that not every student with a TBI needs to go through a special program.
There are specific laws that protect the educational rights of your child after a TBI and require schools to provide them with special services. Let’s discuss them below –
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA]
This is the federal law concerning special education which ensures that students with a TBI or other disabilities get the right education that they need for free. They must receive an education designed to cater to their needs while preparing them to be employable and independent individuals. According to IDEA, the State of New York is mandated to –
● Ensure that every child with a disability gets a Free Appropriate Public Education [FAPE] that caters to their needs
● Develop an Individualized Education Program [IEP] for children with disabilities.
People tend to see special education as a separate school or system, but that perception is totally different from what it really is. Special education is simply specially designed instruction that combines different services and supports to address your child’s unique needs. It is in your child’s IEP that these services and supports are documented.
You can get information about special education services from the special education teacher or principal at the school. Your child will have to undergo a thorough evaluation to help you and the school determine what their educational needs are. With the findings from this evaluation, your child will have an Individualized Education Program [IEP] developed for them.
Keep in mind that an IEP is flexible and evolves as all parties involved learn more about your child’s needs.
● The law also stipulates that students with disabilities must be educated in the Least Restrictive Environment [LRE].
This implies that your child has a right to receive education with non-disabled peers to the best possible extent. They must be given the additional behavioral and academic support necessary for them to progress in the least restrictive environment.
The school is only allowed to remove them from the general environment if it rightfully determines that the TBI is affecting the progress of your child. Special education may then occur in another form or at another location. This could be in a classroom, in another institution, at home, or in a hospital.
The Individual with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA] also mandates certain agencies in the state to seek parental consent before conducting child disability evaluation. This should be done before they provide special education services and, subsequently, once every 3 years, at least.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
This applies if your child does not meet the requirements for special education under IDEA. Section 504 ensures that they receive other supports at school.
American With Disabilities Act
This Act is created to protect your child against discrimination not just at school but throughout society. Under this Act, schools must reasonably accommodate and meet the needs of any student with a disability such as a TBI.
HOW THE SPECIAL EDUCATION PROCESS WORKS
Special education is created to take care of the needs of children with special needs. Under the special education program, your child may have to learn in different forms and may receive supports in a special class, general education classroom, residential placement, home instruction, or even a special program. They are also entitled to assistive technology, supplementary aids & services, transition services, testing accommodations.
For your child to receive special education, you or a school official has to refer them once you start to notice any academic or emotional challenges. This is the point where you get in touch with CSE.
Then, you have to consent to have your child evaluated, after which the evaluation will take place within 60 days of your consent as a parent. To determine what really affects the learning experience of your child, there will be an evaluation of their entire abilities and other developmental factors (physical, psychological, and social). Your child will also be observed in the classroom.
If the evaluation shows that your child qualifies for special education services, both the parents, teachers and school representatives will come together as a team to develop an Individualized Education Program [IEP]. The IEP will document and describe the needs of your child and the necessary services and supports to be given. Placement and services will commence following the development of the IEP.
As parents, you will have a meeting with the CSE, alongside the teachers and school officials yearly. These meetings are centered around initial evaluations or possible re-evaluations to determine whether your child qualifies or has continued eligibility to receive special education services.
Parents need to prepare themselves for a yearly evaluation of the IEP to point out any weaknesses. This will help to identify areas that need changes and make requests. The CSE will conduct a re-evaluation of your child at least once every three years to determine how best to provide special education services or ascertain if your child is still eligible.
Tips For Parents
- Learn as much as you can about traumatic brain injury. Gaining more knowledge will help you understand your child better to see that they get the right help.
- Your child’s medical team can help you understand more about their injury and what treatment will involve. Always ask questions and let your child’s doctors understand your feelings and thoughts. Don’t hesitate to make suggestions where necessary.
- Always keep abreast of treatment for your child. You can get a box for the purpose of storing their treatment history. Continue to honor appointments with your child’s medical team during recovery. Make sure to take notes about what is said and carefully store all sorts of paperwork in that box. This is because remembering all the information shared can be difficult. Should the need arise for the paperwork to be shared with the school or some other institution, give them a copy, not the original.
- Get in touch and connect with other parents of children with traumatic brain injury. You can find different groups in New York. Connecting with these parents will help you learn from their experiences. You will also get emotional support, as well as practical advice, that can help to meet your child’s needs better.
- Carefully plan your child’s return to school. You want them to be integrated back into the system as seamlessly as possible. So, contact their school and make inquiries about special education services. Ensure that the school receives all the medical information that they need from the medical team.
- Once your child makes their return to school, request for them to be tested by the school as early as possible. This will help to determine what their special education needs are. Stay involved and regularly meet with the school authorities so that your child can have the best Individualized Education Program [IEP]
- Regularly communicate with the teachers. Always keep them updated about your child’s behavior and performance at home. Also, be keen to find out how well your child is coping or performing at school.
The Individuals with Disabilities Act [IDEA] protects the rights of students with special needs in New York and stipulates that they must receive free and appropriate public education. Special education must also be given to them in the least restrictive environment to the best extent possible. Therefore, children with TBI are expected to receive special education services while learning with their non-disabled peers once they return to school. They must also receive the additional support needed to enhance their learning experiences. All supports and services required by your child will be documented in the IEP but keep in mind that your child may only qualify to receive accommodations under a section 504 plan.
Legal Support for Families
At different points in the special education process, parents may encounter some challenges and will require professional assistance. This is where the special education advocates and attorneys at James Newman, PC., come in.
We will love to discuss and explain everything about the process in detail. We can also help you to prepare for necessary events like IEP meetings and evaluations. If you need help navigating the system so that your child gets the best possible resources through special education, get in touch with us today.
We will set up a free consultation to discuss the process and determine how best to assist you.