$1.1M grant to launch concussion management specialization

Scott Napolitano, assistant professor of practice in educational psychology, has been awarded a $1.1 million grant to train future school psychologists in concussion management and develop training for schools.

$1.1M grant to launch concussion management specialization

20 Sep 2016    By Alyssa Amen | Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools

With concussion awareness at an all-time high, school personnel are increasingly responsible for supporting students’ recovery.

Scott Napolitano, assistant professor of practice in educational psychology, has been awarded a $1.1 million grant to develop evidence-based training that will help schools diagnose and manage cases of concussion and mild traumatic brain injury in students.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the five-year project will launch a concussion management specialization in UNL’s school psychology graduate program. Approximately 20 students will be recruited through the project, which provides funding for tuition and living stipends.

The new specialization, which is the first of its kind in the United States, aims to address a key issue in the field: the national and local shortage of practicing school psychologists trained in concussion management.

Addressing that shortage may also help schools comply with recent state legislation on concussion management, including the 2014 “Return to Learn” provision of the Nebraska Concussion Awareness Act. The provision requires schools to assess symptoms and needs for students with concussions, and design plans to support academic adjustments.

However, concussion management is a new field, and many schools want more information and tools to better serve students, according to Napolitano.

“Now schools have to start monitoring and evaluating students with concussions, and using new tests and instruments,” said Napolitano, assistant professor of practice in educational psychology. “The whole essence of this grant is to train personnel to meet that need and help students have a more successful recovery and maintain academic success.”

Students in the specialization will gain practical experience during a nine-month externship with Lincoln Public Schools’ concussion management team clinics. They will also participate in workshops, seminars, web-based training and mentoring—all related to concussion management and mild traumatic brain injury.

Napolitano envisions developing a train-the-trainer program to meet concussion management needs on a national scale. His project includes an evaluation component to assess best practices for training school psychologists in concussion management—which also includes feedback from schools and students who receive services.

As researchers discover more and more about what works best for students recovering from concussion—which account for 70-90 percent of mild traumatic brain injuries—they face the challenge of getting information to school personnel.

The current project can help bridge that gap by training a new generation of school psychologists, Napolitano said.

“My ultimate goal is that there will be psychologists who are trained in evidence-based concussion assessment and management in every school in the country,” Napolitano said. “There’s such a need for people who have actual evidence-based training and know how to interpret and read new literature, because the field is changing so fast.”

The grant team includes Lori Terryberry-Spohr, director of rehabilitation programs at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Greg Welch, Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools research assistant professor. The project is housed in CYFS.


College of Education and Human Sciences
Educational Psychology