A Team Approach to Return-to-Learn and Return-to-Play

Guy concentrating on pushing buttons that light up to test reflexes.

When kids and teens experience a concussion, I help them get back to their lives. As a Certified Brain Injury Specialist and Occupational Therapist at ChildServe’s Concussion Clinic, I don’t do this all on my own. I am part of a multi-disciplinary team that includes speech and physical therapists too!

This team approach brings many benefits to the kids we serve! Here’s how:

Concussions Affect Your Whole Life

A concussion can affect your child’s vision, balance, memory, speech, focus, and so much more. Our multi-disciplinary team has experts able to evaluate each area impacted by concussions. We also follow up with a nurse practitioner before we create a plan for return-to-learn and return-to-play decisions. It’s not just one person in one discipline making the decision – our team looks at the whole child to help them move forward.

Moving Forward Together

As a team, we determine the most appropriate treatment based on what we learned about your child’s injury. For example, if we find that your child has significant vision concerns, we might decide the occupational therapist is the best person to start off their recovery program. If balance is their main concern, then we’d start with physical therapy; if memory, then speech. As a team, we make sure each child partners with the perfect set of experts to match their needs.

Recovery is Always About More than Sports

For some kids we serve, getting back on the court or field is a big part of their recovery goals. They don’t want to skip a single minute of practice that they don’t need to. But as anyone who has had a concussion can tell you, concussions do more than limit your athletic participation. They can turn your whole life upside down. Check out Max’s story for a student-athlete perspective.

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury, not a sports injury (even if it happens during a game). ChildServe’s team uses a brain injury approach. We’re concerned with recovery and rehabilitation. This allows us to treat all the deficits described by the patient or seen by the providers. Instead of just focusing on getting kids back on the court, we look at all the aspects of their health and ability that are affected.

Functional Testing

Our team of experts uses functional testing – which means as kids heal, we test how they react to their usual environments. Can a basketball player focus on both dribbling and scanning for an open teammate? When a student takes a timed test, does their headache return?

Functional tests are important because you can’t see concussions like you can see a broken bone – it won’t show up on an ex-ray. If a student goes to their doctor, where they simply have to sit down in a chair and have conversation, they might seem ready to get back to the classroom. A multidisciplinary team can take them through functional assessment that will push them harder in an environment similar to a classroom, PE class, or sport practice. When they experience test-taking, classroom, or competitive environments, or do a light workout, we may start to see symptoms appear that wouldn’t show up just sitting in a chair at the doctor’s office. This helps us treat those symptoms more effectively to help them recover fully.

Symptoms Change as You Recover

As each child or teen recovers, other symptoms or weaknesses can show up. Let’s say a 13-year-old girl comes to the clinic after a concussion in PE. In our initial evaluation, our team can see that the patient is mentally foggy and has a really difficult time remembering things in school. We’d identify that the speech therapist would probably be the best person to see her at this point.

As the student recovers, she overcomes many of those weaknesses and has even been moving around more trying to get involved with her usual activities. But lately she’s getting more headaches when she moves too much. Our team can easily shift the priority to focus on physical or occupational therapy to help her safely gain balance, strength and coordination. The team has already had an eye on her since the first evaluation, and they can connect with the therapist who has worked with her most closely up to that point.

At ChildServe, our team approach means better care, safer recoveries, and peace of mind that an entire team of experts has their eyes on your child’s recovery. Learn more about ChildServe’s Concussion Clinic team, including the NFL-level technology we use.

About

ChildServe improves the health and well-being of more than 4,500 children each year through specialized clinical, home, and community-based programs and services. We serve children with developmental delays, disabilities, acquired injuries, and other special healthcare needs.

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