As The Concussion Blog enters into its second year of existence many have given their opinion of our work here; some negative but a great majority has been positive. Along with the critiques (always welcome) has come an urge for people to write and share experiences. This has mainly been accomplished in the comment section of the posts, but others like Michelle Trenum have given time to write and send information.
Today I would like to introduce another Parent Advocate, Tracey Mayer. She will be offering up her writings to The Concussion Blog as a resource to the readers, especially the parents out there. As time allows she (and possibly her son Drew) will be submitting posts for you to read. I truly hope that everyone gets a chance to read about concussions from yet another perspective. Thank you Tracey!
TRACEY MAYER — Thursday, September 14, was the three-year mark from the date my son, Drew, sustained a concussion during a freshman high school football game. My heart was heavy that day, as it is to some extent every day, but I also felt energized on the anniversary; based upon all that has been accomplished in the areas of concussion awareness, education and research since his injury.
Drew attended a day of training for a leadership program at his high school on the anniversary. One of the topics the students will be presenting to underclassmen is depression. The leadership group was looking to find someone for an interview, and Drew volunteered because he suffered from depression after his concussion. I find this admirable because re-visiting those emotions is not an easy thing to do.
The Fall and football season is particularly hard for Drew because he misses playing so much. It breaks my heart when I read his text messages during the football games telling me how tough it is for him to be there and not be able to play, but I know how strong he is and that he has chosen to persevere. He has found other ways of providing enjoyment to him and others, in doing so; he serves as a role model for not giving up, a very powerful example.
Drew has been completing his college applications over the past couple of weeks. For some time, he was giving thought to how he would address the shift in his academic performance; dealing with his grades dropping substantially after his injury. Granted, he went from numerous C’s as a freshman and sophomore to making the “A Honor Roll” second semester junior year, the C’s affected his grade point a great deal. Think about it – there is no way for the colleges to know why his grades were what they were without Drew explaining it to them. The only chance he gets to do that is through his personal statement or essay—and then he has to hope that someone actually reads it. That is a frightening thought, not only for him but me as well.
Drew is on a 504 plan at school, which allows him 50% more time on exams. Once he decides which college he will attend, we will have to pursue accommodations for him. I am not looking forward to that because it took two years of fighting to get academic accommodations for him in high school, and three separate requests for additional time on the ACT test before he was approved. As much of a battle as it was with the ACT, I am thrilled to know that they finally recognized his injury as a disability, that is huge. I will say, however, that I am still shocked that I had to write the letter for his neurologist to submit to the ACT supporting his case, and her nurse copied and pasted it on their letterhead because the doctor did not know what to write. That is CRAZY, and begs the question – How many other students have been denied accommodations because their parents were not able to get the support they needed? What if I wasn’t capable of writing that letter for his doctor? He would not have been approved for extended time on the ACT. Many doctors are educating themselves about concussions and are taking an active role in developing procedures and policies, but a great number of doctors are still flying blind.
Drew is a senior this year, and, once again I had to approach each of his teachers at the beginning of the school year and explain what he has gone through and the cognitive issues he still struggles with. I should not be the one having these conversations with his teachers and in most cases, the teachers have little or no knowledge about the consequences of concussions. I would love to see a training module for teachers so they can be educated about concussions and the implications when returning to the classroom.
As a mom I am very concerned about the college curriculum because the majority of a students’ grade is based on exams. Drew still struggles with exams, as they provoke migraines – particularly in math and science. For comparison, in high school his grades are based on: homework, class participation, projects and exam. So, if he performs poorly on an exam there are plenty of other opportunities for him to make up for it. That won’t be the case in college. Another consequence Drew has had to deal with going forward to college; he had intended to apply to the college of business, but knowing that he will struggle with high-level math he has decided to go in another direction. He does not know which direction yet, but he will no longer be able to be a business major.
I emailed the school board president and superintendent of our school district a few days ago, sharing with them the new return-to-play and academic recovery policies that have been implemented in Prince William County, Virginia. Although our administration has return-to-play procedures in place, we need to do more, particularly in the area of academic recovery because there is NO academic recovery policy at all– NOTHING. I am going to keep screaming until someone listens!
So we battle on…..we keep fighting for Drew and for others, with the hope that other students and families will not have to endure what we have. I keep telling myself it is a process…..one step at a time. Drew’s last line on his college personal statement was “My mom and dad tell me that when one door closes another one opens, and I know great things are in my future.” That warms my heart :)