Yesterday, we had a Committee on Special Education meeting on an interesting, and tough, case. Although, if I'm blogging about it, it'd have to be interesting, right? When do I ever blog about the cut-and-dry cases?
R was referred for the first time this year despite many years of below grade level performance. He's currently in one of our top Integrated Co-Teaching classrooms, so he's being watched and taken care of by two fantastic, intervention driven teachers. Ms. J came to me with concerns about him a few months ago and wanted to make a referral to help him have academic support services next year for seventh grade.
Last year, he had a very poor teacher and it was a wasted year for him, and as you may imagine, his behavior was a problem. He was often cutting up in class and butted heads with the teacher constantly. As an adult, you would guess he often instigated some of the issues, but if my teacher called me "big lipped," I would feel the need to defend myself, too. (Yes, she really called him that. I could barely be mad at him when I had to deal with the issue.) More typical behaviors are a lack of motivation, distractibility, taking a long time to complete assignments, and becoming easily frustrated over academic tasks and shutting down.
I happily took R for testing, but was blown away by the results. R had a Full Scale IQ standard score of 57 and academic achievement standard scores around 65-70, which place him in the Intellectually Disabled range. WHAT? I'll take "Results I Would Never Bet on in Vegas" for 1,000, Alex. How did this social, artistic, could-go-pro-football-some-day kiddo obtain a lower IQ score than the student we just placed in a life skills program? The scores didn't make sense--sure, R has a lot of difficulty academically, but an ID classification?
At the end of last week, our social worker went out to R's house to meet his mom for a social history, and things began to fall into place. R met all his developmental milestones on time or even early, and was sinking baskets at age 2. Then, at age 7, he was hit by a car riding his bike, lost consciousness, and was taken to the ER, where he was diagnosed with a concussion. He repeated second grade that year. By 9, he had at least three more concussions playing football. Around age 10, his mother started noticing changes in his behavior (problems concentrating, more listless, memory difficulties, impulsivity) and his academics dropped. Suddenly unexpected results make sense--R probably has a traumatic brain injury from multiple concussions over a two year span.
The worst parts about this whole scenario are two fold: 1) R has been struggling for years, and no one ever evaluated him before, and 2) R's future could be totally changed as a result of these concussions and special education classification. A child that could've gone to college on a sports scholarship may now require intensive supports to obtain higher education, if he makes it there at all.
Concussions are serious business, and a new "buzz" in the education world. What looks like a bump on the head when it happens can have serious, lasting, devastating impact on a child's future, especially if injuries are cumulative. Check out the CDC's "Head's Up" program, which has great information for parents, coaches, etc about concussions and traumatic brain injuries and their long-term impacts. Also, here are some resources from NASP's Communique:
Sports-Related Concussions, by Don Brady and Flo Brady
Getting School Psychologists Into the Game, by Susan C. Davies
One further exciting development in concussion research is a cool new app from PAR, Inc. called Concussion Recognition & Response: Coach and Parent Version. The app helps individuals screen the likelihood of a concussion at the moment an injury occurs. This app was recently featured in the Communique. At the October 2012 NY Association of School Psychologists Conference in Niagara Falls, NY, there will be a strain on concussions and head injuries, where PAR will come to present on the app and its use, as well as experts from University at Buffalo. I highly encourage all nearby to attend (and not just because I'm on the conference planning committee!).
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