The article that inspired this post was written by Kyla Robins for CovNews. I chose to mention the article because several aspects of the story inspire a friendly debate about post-injury accommodations and educational needs. Feel free to start the debate with questions under the heading, “Questions,” or create your own topics. Let the debate begin.
Article by Kyla Robins
When CJ Heard sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in ninth grade, many may have thought it would be easy to throw in the towel and give up on school, athletics and any hopes of college. But that’s not what he did. Heard, a recent graduate of Woodlee’s Christian Academy, hit his head during a fall at school in 2009, but he went home with nothing more than a bad headache. The next day, he was at home when he fell, hit his head on an end table, blacked out and went to the hospital with a concussion.
A blood vessel had burst in Heard’s head.
He spent 18 months on home bound to begin his recovery before returning to Woodlee’s. Back at school, Heard began having trouble with homework and tests.
“Heard has a tutor help him with homework and studying because he has a low retention for short-term memory,” his mother, Greta Heard, said. Sometimes they would be up until 2 a.m. working on math problems other students finished easily.
Heard has a 504 plan that allows his state-approved accommodations, such as optimal times for test taking, shorter assignments and taking tests orally instead of reading and writing answers on paper.
Transitioning to his 504 plan was not an easy task, both for Heard and those involved in his schooling.
Greta Heard said she felt the school did not follow her son’s accommodations. Some teachers did not give him shorter assignments or made him take tests on paper, just like the rest of the class. She said tensions and frustrations even got to the point where transferring was considered.
“One thing about our school and staff,” said Woodlee’s director Terri Knight, “we don’t want to make excuses for people. You can use things as a crutch. And while we were meeting (the 504 plan), I’m sure there’s probably a time here and there something was not met exactly. I don’t recall. I can see where there could be a time or two where something wasn’t followed to the Nth degree.
“Sometimes, we just want to push the student. Sometimes, we come across as not cooperating or being too hard when all we’re doing was pushing them out of their comfort zone. It didn’t come across sometimes properly to the parents. It’s for their good. It’s preparation for their future and moving to college.”
Greta Heard kept her son at Woodlee’s because his doctor advised he should not change curriculums due to his short-term memory loss. That big of a change would set him back too far.
Heard maintained a 4.0 GPA before his injury, and he graduated with a 3.5, the second-highest GPA of Woodlee’s five graduating seniors.
Heard will attend Georgia Perimeter College in the fall to pursue a degree in film production.
“There are so many kids who have different challenges and learning disabilities,” Greta Heard said. “They can overcome it if they have the right people in place, their parents supporting them. Don’t give up on them. Encourage them. Stand by them. That’s what it’s going to take to overcome any challenge they’re going to have in their life.
“As for the student, don’t give up. Keep pressing. If you feel something is wrong, speak up. Don’t settle for anything. You know your dreams. You know your hopes.
- Who should decide the education strategy of a survivor?
- Who should make decisions about appropriate accommodations?
- Should a state decision overrule a school decision about accommodations?
- Is a public school more likely to allow accommodations than a private school?
- What recourse should a survivor have if accommodations are not met?
- Should a Federal, state, or local agency monitor violations of accommodations?
Thanks to Google for helping me find the article; CJ Heard for sharing his story; Greta Heard for adding substance to the story; Kyla Robins for writing the article; CovNews for publishing the article; and all the other people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible for me to include the picture and text I used in this post.