School stress and avoidance...

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-08-2014
School stress and avoidance...
Wed, 01-08-2014 - 12:22pm


Over the last couple of months my 13 year old son has had some real challenges going to school.  He's been a straight A student for as long as I can remember, and has done so on his own without pressure from us.  A couple months back he had an accident playing soccer and sufferred a concussion.  As a result he was out of school for a solid week and also missed some other days due to not feeling well.  

We beleive he's fully reovered from his concussion based on his other activities, but ever since missing those days he's resisted going to school very regularly.  From what I can gather, he's stressed about being behind and the imact of that to his grades.  Unfortunately his reaction to that stress seems to be avoidance.  

Yesterday, first day back from the holiday break, he ended up ditching school for the first time ever.  This came after a difficult morning in which we forced him to go to school.  He didn't want to go because he remembered that he didn't study for a make up test from when he was out with his concussion.

We are at a loss as to how to help get him back on track. 

Any advice or share experience would be appreciated.  

Avatar for suzyk2118
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-30-1997
Wed, 01-08-2014 - 1:13pm

How about getting the school counselor involved? I would think they've dealt with this kind of thing before (kids out due to illness or accidents or whatever, getting back in the swing of things)...

Community Leader
Registered: 07-26-1999
Wed, 01-08-2014 - 1:14pm
Hugs to him! I can imagine the stress he may feel having to catch up and everything. Have you had a meeting with the school guidance counselor or anything about easing him back into school? Did he do all of the work on his own while he was out, or did he have a tutor or anything from the school to help him? I would start there and see what can be done to help him ease back in. Someone else may have some other suggestions also.
iVillage Member
Registered: 01-08-2014
Wed, 01-08-2014 - 1:32pm

Thank you for the suggestion. We actually just came back from a meeting with the councelor, and as you mentioned she was helpul and had some good ideas.  We will be taking it day by day.  But I am more optimistic.  

kind regards, 


Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999
Wed, 01-08-2014 - 1:33pm

Funny you should ask.  New information came out just yesterday, saying that the BRAIN NEEDS REST following a concussion, and for much longer than had previously been recommended.  "People need to realize that “it can take days to weeks for processes in the brain to mop up the mess from a concussion,” (said) Dr. Douglas Smith, a professor of neurosurgery and director of the Center for Brain Injury and Repair at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center.

"Just how much kids needs to reduce their mental activity will depend on the number and severity of symptoms, said Dr. Robert Cantu, a professor of neurology and neurosurgery at the Boston University School of Medicine and co-director of the Center for the Study of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.  For some kids the slightest mental exertion can worsen symptoms. “There are definitely individuals with symptoms that are so bad that the best thing to do is to take a period of months off from school,” Cantu said.

In addition, during a traumatic head injury, the brain suffers both coup damage (to the area that was struck), and countre-coup (damage to the area OPPOSITE that which was struck).  These injuries cause "...postconcussional disorder... This disorder may occur after even mild traumatic brain injury. Postconcussional symptoms occur in 80% to 100% of patients in the first month after injury and may persist after 1 year in a small percentage of patients.  Disturbances in somatic, affective, and cognitive spheres are present. Somatic symptoms include headaches, fatigue, disordered sleep, and dizziness; affective symptoms include anxiety, depression, emotional lability, irritability, or aggressive spells.  The main cognitive deficits in memory are in information processing speed, attention, and concentration..."

All this suggests that your son has NOT recovered from his concussion.  A visit to a neurologist is of the highest need.

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-08-2009
Thu, 01-09-2014 - 1:45am

Sabrtooth is very much up on these psychological and neurological types of issues.  I had heard a little about this new study on the evening news.  It sounds intuitively correct that a brain bruise of some type might require lots of rest for it to mend.  Much like putting a person with an ankle sprain on crutches and reduced PE. 

Thirteen can be an older 7th grader or younger 8th grader.  Either way, you want to make sure that the kid fills in all the gaps as they head into high school.  Classes like math, foreign language and English language depend upon prior learning to build upon, while classes like history, literature, even science are less dependent upon prior learning. The school should be able to identify any voids and gaps that need filling after things return to normal.  Kahn Academy on the internet is FREE and funded by the Bill and Malinda Gates Foundation.  And your son should be able to find his way through the language skills he missed.  Grade A students usually have good study habits. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Thu, 01-09-2014 - 10:48am

I was thinking along the same lines as Sabrtooth here.  I don't know how serious the concussion was but I'm thinking if he needed a full week out of school it must have been kind of serious.  I would recommend an examination with a pediatric neurologist if he hasn't had one.  I am a lawyer who does personal injury cases and we have been working a lot with brain injury cases lately.  these are people who generally weren't even diagnosed with a brain injury in the ER but when you look back at the medical records, they start complaining of things like dizziness, insomnia, memory loss, vision problems, etc.  One case that we don't have a full report on yet involves a girl who was a high school student who was a pedestrian hit by a car.  She was a very good student and after the accident she started to have trouble in math.  If you read about the NFL lawsuits, they allege that the NFL suppressed studies that show that only one concussion can cause permanent brain injury.  I don't want to scare you but I'm sure that most pediatricians really aren't up on the knowledge because this is really very new.  Oh and I don't know if he had a CT scan in the hospital--even if it came back normal, that doesn't mean that he didn't have a TBI (traumatic brain injury) because CT scans only show if there is bleeding in the brain--you don't need bleeding to have a TBI.

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-08-2009
Thu, 01-09-2014 - 9:39pm

I have near SUBZERO personal experience on this subject, but each set of parents of both SILs took the SIL to a pediatric neurologist when they were younger.  Oldest SIL is mildly Dyslexic, while younger SIL has mild Asperger’s Syndrome. In addition to the medical issues these doctors can give guidance for developing coping skills, etcetera. 

Teens, like people in general, play to their strengths. Some kids have strengths in several areas and I suppose a few rare ones have strengths in many areas.  Some kids are more academically inclined, others more athletic, artistic, musical, etcetera.  Success in their “gifted” area comes almost effortlessly for them. Since your son does well in school and is an A student, I would guess that he is very strong academically.

A large part of a teen’s self-respect or self-esteem comes from the pride of doing well in their particular area.  Therefore, part of your son’s behavior problems may be that he feels overwhelmed and embarrassed by the fact that he is not able to perform up to the standards he is accustomed to.  There may even be a few jerks in his class that are pointing that out to him.  Kids can be cruel—especially the jerks.  (Both SILs suffered this prior to becoming best pals for life at 10 and 11 and propping up each other.  Yes, it is a very odd coupling.)

7th and 8th grades are tough years for teens without this issue being piled on top. Having met and observed my SILs since they were in 7th and 8th, I think it is more pronounced among boys, but that is just my opinion.  If your son fills the gaps in learning before high school, this glitch in jr hi will mean nothing. Let him know this as it will reduce his fears.  

I would set my child down and have a conversation, reassure him that things will get better, reinforce the importance of attending school, doing the best job possible, whatever his best yields is ok with you and his dad, etcetera.  The school should be able to alert you of his non-attendance—almost instantly, as the teachers can be put on notice to look for his face in every class and observe any changes since the accident. These teacher observations may be of benefit to the neurologist in helping your son and you.  (If he knows the teachers will be watching for him, ditching may become a less viable option for him.)

The pediatric neurologist may also be able to provide you with some guidance on his prospect for future such concussions.  All heads are not equally able to sustain those hard hits.  Some people are at greater risk of repeat injuries than others.  If he is one of those people, he needs to know it and protect himself.  This may be painful because he may have to give up sports he loves like soccer, football, and baseball.  Or, there may be NO linkage between this injury and future injuries occuring. 

(One benefit of having been the target of these cruel jerks is that you develop a tender heart for the down and outers around you.   Something you learn from the jerks, is not to be one.)

(Another benefit of having these disabilities is that it toughens you up for the long haul.  There is a peace that comes with the feeling that I have survived some of the toughest challenges of life.)


Avatar for jamblessedthree
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-23-2001
Sun, 01-26-2014 - 8:29am
Speak to the counselor. Give your DS ultimatums, that if he doesn't go to school the consequence is x. I can understand the stressors or catch up after getting hurt but ditching school after telling you he would go to school is lying to you and that is not ok. Good luck, I have a kid that has resisted school now and then, her stressors are related to her health condition and I do allow mental health days now and then but that's different.