If you have a school-age child with special health needs, make sure the school has a written document outlining a health-care and emergency plan. This document should contain the following information:
- A brief medical history
- The child's special needs
- Medication or procedures required during school
- Special dietary requirements
- Transportation needs
- Possible problems, special precautions
- Important personnel (e.g., pediatrician, hospital)
- Emergency plans and procedures (including whom to contact)
Some parents are hesitant to give school personnel information about their child's medical condition. But in fact, the school staff will work with you and your child more effectively if they have complete information. Teachers often can identify problems early and help solve them and recognize your child's achievements in managing the illness. Thus, work toward assisting the teacher in becoming an advocate for your youngster, and keep the lines of communication open. If school personnel do not have accurate information to work with, they may start making erroneous assumptions, which can lead to mismanagement of your child's condition or inappropriate academic expectations.
Classmates should also be told about your child's health condition in order to avoid their exaggerating or misinterpreting the severity and danger of the illness and the limits it places on your youngster. Some children may be frightened about a diagnosis like leukemia or diabetes. They may not know how to relate to your youngster; they may be concerned that they will "catch" the disease. If those anxieties are not dealt with effectively, your child may find himself isolated from his classmates.
To avoid this kind of problem, you might suggest that your pediatrician or school nurse visit your child's classroom. Also, some families have become involved in school curriculum committees and PTAs to help educate both parents and students about their youngster's chronic condition. A number of school systems have created programs in which healthy children are taught about chronic illnesses and disabilities.
Teachers are a valuable source of observations of your child. They can let you know about changes in behavior, signs of anxiety or distractibility, and how your child relates to his classmates, as well as updating you on his academic performance.