To the Editor: On January 28, 2015, I was diagnosed with a concussion. But being bashed in the head by a squash racket was not even the worst part. The past four months have been, in simple terms, extremely stressful and unnecessarily difficult, in large part due to how Isham handled my case. I believe that the school’s inflexible policies for students with concussions can hinder their overall health and make their recovery – both physically, mentally and academically – all the more strenuous.
For over a month after my initial diagnosis, I struggled to pass the school-required ImPACT test, which assesses brain damage by comparing the results to an initial baseline test. As a result, although I was still expected to attend class and complete homework, I was barred from completing any of my major assignments.
For this entire period, however, I do not believe I was concussed: I was asymptomatic of any traumatic brain injury and, in fact, my overall ImPACT test scores were improving. I only failed each time because my reaction time was not deemed up to par.
I never actually passed the ImPACT test. Exasperated by the school’s rigid adherence to the computer exam in spite of my obvious lack of symptoms, I finally was forced to see an outside neurologist at Tufts University, who immediately concluded that I was not concussed.
By the time I was deemed healthy, it was the beginning of March. I had missed half of Winter Term.
I was thus set back on half a term’s worth of major assignments – which, ten weeks into Spring Term and almost four months after my injury, I am still working on, in addition to my normal Spring Term course load.
This is just too much to ask of a student here. My Lower Spring has been by far the most stressful time of my life. I am, on average, sleeping for two hours less than I did in my Fall and Winter Terms. I discovered, and am now dependent on, the consumption of caffeine in the morning. Although my grades are not slipping dramatically, I simply cannot remain as academically competitive with so much work, nor can I participate in my extracurricular activities as much as I’d like to. And of course, my mental health has only deteriorated due to this stress. Clearly, Isham’s policies need to change so students can avoid this misery.
Neurologist visits should be considered sooner for asymptomatic students who cannot pass the ImPACT test, and the administration should better accommodate the academic needs of those forced to miss assignments. Rather than requiring these students to make up all missed work, the school, as well as individual teachers, should be more flexible in terms of what needs to be completed, and in, extreme cases, even adapting graduation requirements.
I would like to emphasize that I am neither advocating for less caution nor am I implying that the administration doesn’t support students through this process. Rather, I am endorsing alternative approaches to the problem. In fact, I received an ample amount of support. But still facing two incomplete assignments from the Winter Term, I emphasize that more needs to be done. For the sake of our students, some things need to change.
Sincerely, James Wolfe ’17
Emma Crowe ’15 Kinsey Yost ’15 Gordon Coulter ’16 Robby Cerulle ’17 Madi Katz ’17 Nicole Rodriguez ’17 Matt Welch ’17 David Tsai ’18