Today’s guest blogger is Cindy Priester, OTR/L, MS. Cindy is the Educational Program Coordinator at the Elizabeth Lee Black School. She was an OT for 31 years at BNI before accepting the coordinator position. She currently volunteers as a team member of BrainSTEPS.
In addition to my full-time job, I also volunteer as a team member of the statewide program BrainSTEPS. Recently, we just held our annual goal planning session. I was reminded of how sobering and serious brain injuries can be, which makes the BrainSTEPS initiative all the more important in our community.
The damaging effects of concussions and other head injuries of professional athletes have been in the spotlight more than ever before, but sadly, there is very little awareness about brain damage in children. Brain injuries are a leading cause of death and disability in children and adolescents. Injury to the brain can have a significant impact, either temporary or lifelong, on a student’s ability to learn and classroom performance. Children do not always need to strike their heads to sustain a brain injury. Even a sudden, severe jolting of the head may be all the force necessary to inflict brain damage.
Unfortunately, brain injury can’t always be accurately measured based on outer appearance. Following an accident, a child may appear physically recovered but may in fact still have significant brain injury, the effects of which are not immediately apparent. In some cases, the damage may only become evident over time as the child passes through important developmental stages and begins expanding his/her use of the brain.
BrainSTEPS (Strategies Teaching Educators, Parents, & Students) is a brain injury school re-entry consulting program that assists PA schools in creating educational plans for students following an acquired brain injury (ABI). There are a total of 30 BrainSTEPS teams throughout PA. Team members are volunteers as well as professionals in their field. Each team is comprised of education professionals and a wide range of medical rehabilitation professionals to allow proper assessment and care for each case. Every staff member must be fully trained at a day-long program and retrained every year.
Schools and families consult with the BrainSTEPS team in the development and delivery of educational services for students who have experienced any type of ABI. Such services include intervention selection and implementation, educational plan development, concussion management, teacher, peer and family training, access to community resources for continued training and rehabilitation, and continued monitoring until graduation.
For the coming year, BrainSTEPS plans to grow by holding regional training for all districts on brain injury topics, as well as establishing stronger partnerships with other school districts for student referrals.
For more information, please visit www.brainsteps.net, and be sure to share this important information!