Returning to school after a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or living with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be overwhelming. Noisy settings may become problematic, complex tasks may become hard to follow, and socializing with instructors and peers may not come as easy. But if you are a student living with TBI or PTSD, you can still achieve academic success.
Common Struggles for Students
Depending on your injury and where you are in the recovery process, you will likely perform at a different level than before your injury. You may notice new challenges with learning and studying that you didn’t have before. Many students have trouble:
- Paying attention
- Staying organized
- Making decisions
- Managing their time
- Learning and remembering new information
- Staying focused
Students who experienced trauma may face triggers when going back to school. For instance, some people may find it hard to sit in confined spaces, such as a classroom, while others may feel claustrophobic or overwhelmed in large groups of people or crowds. The authoritative nature of teachers and administrators may even be intimidating or daunting.
If you’ve experienced any of these challenges, the tips can help you manage these symptoms:
- Participate in therapy - Starting or continuing therapy, whether as an individual or in a group, using traditional or non-traditional methods may help with the transition.
- Identify resources and support groups – There are several resources for service members and veterans returning to school with a TBI, including the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) Back to School Guide to Academic Success After Traumatic Brain Injury.
- Take breaks - Sometimes you need to take a trip to the bathroom or step out and that’s OK. Be kind to yourself.
- Understand how TBI and PTSD affect you - No two injuries are the same. By learning as much as you can about your triggers you can successfully cope with the resulting anxiety.
- Communicate with your instructors - Recognize the support around you. Sometimes your teacher or professor can offer extra help or time whenever possible.
- Pace yourself - By breaking up your work into smaller, more manageable steps or pieces. If we think of all the work we have to do, we can start to feel overwhelmed and then it begins to feel impossible. One small thing at a time.
- Consider alternatives - Online learning is an excellent way to start back to school if you feel uncomfortable with larger settings.
Don’t Give Up!
Going to back to school is a big decision. As an adult learner, there are more distractions and responsibilities to balance on top of schoolwork. It takes tenacity to complete a college degree while coping with the effects of TBI and PTSD – we believe in you -- do not give up!