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Recovering from Concussion: Teachers Play Important Role

Cognitive strategies for dealing with a student's post-concussion memory problems

Students with concussions, particularly those who have suffered multiple concussions, often have trouble retaining new information and retrieving information when needed, such as when taking a test or answering a question in class. Teacher at blackboard

Cognitive strategies

When a child has recovered enough from a concussion to return to the classroom, parents should not only arm a child with post-concussive strategies for the classroom,  but to do everything possible to make sure his or her teachers make academic accommodations for memory problems.  

Here's a Top Ten list of cognitive strategies your child's teacher should consider employing:

  1. Make sure the student is paying attention. Make direct eye contact with the student whenever you are teaching new information.
  2. Connect new information with previously learned information. 
  3. Try to make the information to be learned meaningful and functional. 
  4. Match the student's learning style (e.g., visual learner) with the teaching method. 
  5. Frequently summarize information as it is being taught, using overlapping techniques such as repetition and rehearsal. 
  6. Use pictures, diagrams, and charts to reinforce what is being learned. 
  7. Control the amount of new information that is being presented. 
  8. Give multi-sensory presentations of new information. 
  9. Teach the student how to organize new information for better memory retention.
  10. Teach the student to use a day planner for notes, assignments, and appointments.

One more thing: Provide the student preferential seating, closest to the site of instruction and when possible, away from doors and windows.

Two kinds of memory problems

Students with a concussion may have two kinds of difficulty with memory:

1. Memory Encoding (difficulty retaining information): having difficulty remembering names, locations, directions, schedule and assignments.

Ways to help:

  • Highlight important information
  • Practice/rehearse all new information and skills. Any time an individual repeats information several times aloud, it is being locked into memory 
  • Link new information to previously learned information 
  • Find out what helps the student (written directions, oral directions, role playing, visual cues) 
  • Emphasize use of an assignment notebook 
  • Encourage organizations with use of color coding for all materials - i.e. notebooks, textbook covers, folders, etc. 
  • Review mnemonic and acronym strategies with the student. 
  • Try to help the student "chunk" information into groups, pairs, or categories. This is particularly helpful when the student is trying to remember lists of information.

2. Memory retrieval (difficulty with retrieval of information when needed).

Ways to help:

  • Give prompts or cues to help retrieval
  • Provide the student with choices to help them retrieve the information (is it red or blue?) 
  • Reformat essay, short answer and fill in the blank tests to tests that use multiple choice, matching or true and false. 
  • Emphasize use of consistent routines and schedules 
  • Teach relaxation strategies when student is frustrated 
  • Teach compensatory strategies such as describing the object or talking about the topic.

Source: The Lawrenceville School

Updated May 11, 2015

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