How does a concussion affect my student's learning?

A concussion can affect a student’s physical, cognitive and emotional functioning. These symptoms can have an effect on a student’s learning in the following ways:

Physical Cognitive Emotional

Tires easily

Sensitive to light

Sensitive to noise

Fatigues as day/week progresses


Unsteadiness when walking


Visual disturbances

Neck pain



Sleep disturbance

Tires easily

Decreased academic achievement

Attendance issues

Late/incomplete homework

Difficulty concentrating

Difficulty remembering

Easily distracted

Difficulty organizing

Slowed information processing

Difficulty multitasking

Difficulty understanding concepts

Difficulty expressing themselves

Difficulty reading

Difficulty learning new information



Behaviour changes

Problems with motivation

Social issues (with peers)


Gets upset easily



Symptoms can be situational and triggered by elements in the environment. For example, a student may experience a headache in the classroom from the fluorescent lights but the headache subsides when they go outside.

A healing brain has to work harder to accomplish anything. For many students this limited energy is compounded by:

  • Changes in their sleep patterns
  • Overexerting themselves
  • Feeling pressure to keep up with school work
  • Dealing with the emotional impacts of concussion

What learning accommodations could help a student with a concussion?

Learning accommodations are very individual. What works for one student may not work for another and performance may fluctuate daily. So it’s important to monitor the effectiveness of the selected accommodations.

The following are some examples of how to support students with concussion:

Physical Cognitive Emotional

Frequent rest breaks

Restrict physical activity including PE, team sports, recess, and lunch break

Allow student to wear sunglasses/hat, noise reducing earplugs

Seat student away from windows or bright lighting

Preferential seating to reduce distractions

Allow for a modified timetable

Access to a quiet space for breaks

Restrict classes with noise and/or safety issues

Allow class transition before bell

- Amount of time at school
- Academic expectations
- Work load

Limit time focusing on school work

Prioritize essential school work

Avoid stimulating or noisy environments

Provide a quiet space for schoolwork

Provide class notes

Frequent rest breaks

Allow extra time to complete tasks

Allow access to the learning support teacher

Consider tutoring support

Provide opportunities for socialization

Allow student to remove themselves from situations they aren’t tolerating well

Provide avenues for student to express themselves

Access to school counsellor/psychologist

Provide supportive feedback/reassurance

Ultimately, the goal of learning accommodations is to support concussed students to participate in school to the best of their ability and to avoid:

  • Exacerbating symptoms
  • Delaying their recovery
  • Have a negative impact on their grades or social relationships

For more information on the effects of concussion on learning and learning accommodations see the Resources section or take the Concussion Awareness Course for School Professionals.

A healing brain has to work harder to accomplish anything