Bucks County IU 22: Customized Brain Injury Program Guides Students Back to Schooling

When a student suffering brain injury after a stroke was not thriving in an approved private school, his district turned to Bucks County IU 22 for help. From there, what started as a class of one grew into the BucksIU Brain Injury Program, a comprehensive program guiding students through the transition from brain injury back to daily life and school.

Many factors – not just concussions from sports-related collisions – cause brain injuries. Students suffering the effects of such causes as meningitis, chemotherapy, or car crashes grapple with distinct challenges. In this atmosphere, IU 22 expanded beyond BrainSTEPS, the Pennsylvania brain injury school re-entry program, into a customized “link between rehab and school,” said Program Director Marguerite Vasconcellos.

“Students aren’t shoehorned,” she said. “Each brain injury results in a unique, distinctive student profile. We meet each student where they are and take them where they need to go.”

While some students might receive physical therapy or instruction in a specially equipped IU classroom, most get supports delivered directly to their schools. Teachers are trained in their students’ new learning needs and styles. Parents – often reeling from the dramatic changes in their children – get access to support groups and community resources, such as a local climbing wall equipped with a wheelchair harness.

Some students whose plans for post-secondary schooling are sidetracked get help transitioning to adult day programs “so they have a place,” said Team Leader Sara Krusen. “They have a social circle. They have a purpose.” One former student with physical limitations now volunteering to do data entry at his old elementary school “has quality of life. He’s a part of his community.”

Between the IU classroom, counseling, and support for families and school staff, the program serves 20 to 25 students in 13 school districts. For those districts, the BucksIU Brain Injury Program delivers least-restrictive services close to home.

“Our districts know they have a place to turn when they can’t do it themselves,” said Vasconcellos. “We certainly never want our class to be filled to capacity. But we’re here, and because we have built a legacy of customization, the districts continue to turn to us.”

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