New ‘Return-to-Learn’ program helps students succeed in the classroom post-concussion

Sep 17, 2021, 3:21 PM

HERRIMAN, Utah — Utah follows strict protocols to help student athletes who suffer a concussion “return-to-play.” But what about helping injured students keep up in the classroom?

The Alpine School District is first in the state to partner with Intermountain Healthcare on a new program called “Return-to-Learn.”

Nathan Bos, 19, suffered three major concussions three years in a row.

In seventh grade, he was riding a bike when he hit a parked car, which required major face and nose surgery.

“It started snowing and I slipped and I actually went through the back windshield of a car,” he described. “It was bad, but I recovered and I was able to go on my daily life.”

The summer after eighth grade, he was injured in a Lake Powell incident while tubing.

“The top of his head hit me right here and it broke my jaw and also gave me a very, very bad concussion,” he said. “I had my mouth wired shut for about two months.”

That’s when the migraines, severe short term memory loss, and emotional challenges began. Those symptoms were only compounded by the third and worst injury in ninth grade when Nathan hit his head in a rugby tackle.

“I went for a tackle and got kneed right in the forehead right there,” Bos described. “That one was definitely the worst out of the three.”

He doesn’t have any memory of that day in particular.

Sadly, his memory loss started affecting him on a daily basis.

“I couldn’t even remember what I ate for breakfast in the morning by first period,” he said.

Remembering assignments and math formulas became impossible.

“I went from a straight A student to almost failing my classes,” Bos said. “I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t learn. I couldn’t retain any information.”

His teachers gave him extra time on homework and tests, but Bos says he couldn’t even remember the subjects to begin with. He said he needed one-on-one time with the teachers.

“We were moving so fast and I couldn’t even comprehend what was happening,” he said.

Bos’ mental health also plummeted.

“My depression, my self-esteem, my irritability, my anger just all erupted… [it] even came to the point where I had severe suicidal thoughts,” he said. “Just a totally different person than what I was before.”

“My parents didn’t know how to help. My teachers didn’t know how to help,” Bos said.

After suffering three major concussions three years in a row during his middle and high school years which significantly affected his ability to learn, Nathan Bos ended up graduating in the top five percent of his class and spoke at graduation. His mother, Mickelle Bos who is the assistant principal at Mountain View High School, helped the Alpine School District design and implement a strict return-to-learn concussion protocol and symptom scale for students who suffer from a concussion injury. (Bos Family) Nathan Bos suffered his first concussion when he was in eighth grade. He hit and went through the windshield of a parked car when he was riding his bike in the snow. This was only the first of three total concussions which ended up significantly affecting Bos’ ability to learn and his mental health. (Bos Family) Nathan Bos experienced his third and worst concussion when he was hit during a rugby tackle. He experienced severe migraines, short term memory loss, and serious mental and emotional challenges. (Bos Family) Nathan Bos sits with his mother, Mickelle Bos, who helped design a concussion protocol and symptom scale for the Alpine School District this year, in partnership with Intermountain Healthcare. (Ken Fall/KSL TV)

Intermountain Healthcare’s Dr. Darren Campbell, a sports medicine physician at the Utah Valley Concussion Clinic, said a concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury and can affect basic brain function.

Campbell said concussion symptoms go beyond just having a headache.

“It can be balanced symptoms, visual symptoms, cognitive processing symptoms, emotional symptoms, some of the things we don’t think about,” he explained. “If we have areas that are affected, such as our visual system, it can be really difficult to pay attention in class, to receive the message.”

“So for that short period of time, it’s truly like a learning disability,” Campbell said. “Students can fall behind significantly in their classes…. The deficit that they have to make up can be significant and can affect a whole semester.”

Campbell believes teachers are key to helping students recover by making simple accommodations.

“Our teachers are dealing with students and watching them interact every day,” he said.

“If someone’s having trouble seeing the board in a classroom, they can have them listen to that lecture or that class on audio,” he explained. “[Or] simply letting them out of class five minutes early, so they don’t have to walk through a hall full of students. Getting them to their next class can really help them make it through a day of school.”

Bos’ mom, Mickelle Bos, who is also the assistant principal with Mountain View High School, recently helped the Alpine School District develop a post-concussion protocol and symptom scale to help educators.

The protocol requires injured students to fill out a daily report, rating their symptoms on a scale of one to six. If a student has a score of four or higher, they may need to take a break from what they are doing.

“This helps them communicate with their teacher, their parent, with anybody, so this needs to be in hand every single day,” she explained.

Nathan hopes this program will benefit others in the future.

“It’s not just about getting your student back into sports, it’s about actually reintegrating them into school,” Bos said.

“Find someone to help you through because it is so hard to do it on your own,” he urged.

With the right help and hard work, Bos ended up graduating in the top five percent of his class and spoke at his high school graduation.

“I was diagnosed with a severe concussion,” he said in his speech. “I emerged victorious, just like all of us at this moment right now.”

Campbell said the first step is not ignoring the injury.

“The most important thing to do is identify it, put in the right restrictions, just for that short term, get the right treatment and heal from it, and if we’re able to heal completely from that, right now, we’re not seeing significant long term effects,” he said.

He said the majority of concussion injuries he sees are not sport-related, but occurred as a result of normal life activities, like taking a fall, playing with kids, or being involved in a car crash.

Campbell said this new program will help not just athletes, but all injured students better succeed in school.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Your Life Your Health

Lamont Dorrity...
Ayanna Likens

How exercise helps with Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson's disease is affecting more and more people across the nation. While there is no cure, one thing is showing promise in improving symptoms.
5 days ago
Jason Peck with his sons...
Ayanna Likens

How an outpatient program helped Salt Lake man overcome substance abuse

A Salt Lake man is sharing his story of overcoming opioid use and how Intermountain Health's outpatient program helped him.
12 days ago
Doctors are seeing a higher number of adults under 55 diagnosed with colon cancer. (Jeffrey Gray)...
Ayanna Likens

45 is the new 50 when it comes to colon cancer screenings

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month, and 45 is the new 50 when it comes to colon cancer screenings.
19 days ago
(KSL TV)...
Ayanna Likens

Why helmet safety is important when playing in the snow

All of the recent snowfall in Utah has created every kid's winter wonderland, but if you plan to hit the sledding hill, there are a few things to keep in mind. 
26 days ago
Linda LeCheminant...
Ayanna Likens

Why it’s important to recognize your risk for heart disease 

February is National Heart Month and heart disease is the number one killer in the United States for both men and women. But there are some ways that you can change your lifestyle to help prevent it.
1 month ago
Ross heart procedure...
Ayanna Likens

Complex heart surgery at Primary Children’s is saving lives

February is Heart Health Month, and a young Idaho boy is thriving because of a heart procedure gaining traction at Intermountain's Primary Children's Hospital. 
1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

Stack of old laptops with dark background...
PC Laptops

Old Laptop Upgrades You Need to Try Before Throwing it Away

Get the most out of your investment. Try these old laptop upgrades before throwing it out to keep it running fast and efficient.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Close up of an offset printing machine during production...
Les Olson IT

Top 7 Reasons to Add a Production Printer to Your Business

Learn about the different digital production printers and how they can help your company save time and money.
vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
New ‘Return-to-Learn’ program helps students succeed in the classroom post-concussion