Back to School or Work
Going back to school or work has got to be a huge milestone in the brain injured survivor's recovery. So, please take some time and celebrate. I think it should be worth a dinner or some flowers.
With that said, returning to school or work also opens up a number of new challenges. Do what you can to be supportive and help relieve the stress.
Returning to school or work can be very stressful because many of the problems related to brain injuries may impact the skills typically needed in school or on the job such as memory, concentration, and endurance. Make sure your neuropsychologist is involved and helps with the decision regarding when to return to school or work. If you do not have a neuropsychologist now is a good time. Our same caveat regarding doctors applies when selecting one. Make sure they have experience with brain injured patients and express a positive, caring attitude.
Back To School
If your loved one is going back to the school the key is in preparation. Meet with the school beforehand and understand what is available and what the policies are. Depending on the severity of the deficits, different criteria may be used. An individual learning plan may need to be developed. Allowances for tutoring, extended test taking time, tape recording, and other accommodations may be required. School districts often employ specialists such as speech or occupational therapists who may be brought in.
In addition to the curriculum decisions do not forget to think about the social adjustments. Again, the dynamics are different based on the age and the severity of the injury. High school offers a whole new set of concerns than say the third grade. For younger kids perhaps you can visit the classroom and explain what happened and what expect and how best to relate to your son or daughter. If the brain injured person is in high school, it would help to talk to the friends about things beforehand and have them look out for the person.
If the person is of college age, then you need to visit the school's office of disabilities. Universities typically have such an office and they have a set of policies and guidelines in place that are really helpful. They can provide note-takers, special exams, or any other accommodations. The schools we talked with also had a person who was very knowledgeable with computers and different adaptive input devices.
Start small and build off of positive experiences. Stay on top off things closely in the beginning. Be extra aware if your loved one displays a common trait of brain injured people and does not fully recognize their deficits. Try to make the home life calm and relaxing so they can rest as much as possible.
Back To Work
Obviously, all I can do here is provide general advice. Since work environments are so different from job to job you really need to use your best judgment. Bring in the experts you have available. Make sure the neuropsychologist is involved, use your state's Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation.
One thing we have seen even as part of the rehab process is for the brain injured person to volunteer for a while as a first step back into the work environment. This type of activity may bring to light areas that require additional work before attempting to return to their previous position.
Again, I think preparation is key. Meet with the immediate manager and a person from Human Resources. See if your loved one can come back slowly maybe for half-days for a while. Maybe there is a temporary assignment that might help the transition.
Safety is also a key consideration. Make sure the brain injured person can do the job safely to themselves and to others. Deficits such as memory problems, dizziness, vision problems, seizures, are just a few of the problems that could have a major impact.
It may work out that the previous job is just not suitable at this point. Perhaps the company has other more suitable positions available or perhaps you will need to take advantage of the Vocational Rehab resources to help find a position in a new field.
As with everything you have gone through to this point, stay positive and stay persistent. Things may not be back to exactly the way they were before the brain injury but thank goodness the recovery has been so successful that you are at least considering a return back to school work. Believe me, there are lots of other survivors who wish they were this far along in their recovery and many others who just their loved ones were still alive.