Rajapillai Pillai, MD, PhD & Jacqueline M. Branch, MD, FAAP
Many families have gone back to their pre-pandemic school routines. Children with special health care needs may also want to return to pre-pandemic school routines. But they may be at
higher risk of serious illness.
Kids with special health care needs already face many roadblocks. Parents can take steps to make sure that schools
include children with special health care needs in health and safety plans. One of the biggest steps is to review your child's
individualized education program (IEP) or 504 plan. If it does not meet your child's specific needs, it should be updated. Here's what parents can do.
Stop the spread of illness.
Find out what actions your school is taking to protect students at higher risk of serious illness. For example, wearing masks indoors helps to protect kids with special health needs in areas with medium or high levels of COVID. Masks are provided at many schools for no cost or very little cost to the school. Ask if your school has made improvements to ventilation, air conditioning and heating systems. These changes also help reduce the spread of diseases.
Request a health plan.
To keep a child safe, parents can work with their pediatrician on a health plan and recommendations to share with the school. The plan can describe ways to protect your child from contagious diseases. For example, ask the school to sanitize equipment, avoid shared toys or tools, and other steps.
Create a sick plan.
Work with your pediatrician to create a plan in case your child gets sick while
at school. This lets the school know what medications to give your child, what early warning signs or symptoms to watch for, and when to call 911. Examples of these include
action plans for
Catch kids clean-handed.
Celebrate positive behaviors at home, like when your child washes their hands before eating and after using the bathroom or touching shared objects. Remind them that
hand washing keeps us and our friends healthy at school, too.
Keep kids’ immune systems healthy.
This year, illnesses are spreading sooner and at unexpected times. Immunization makes it harder for viruses like influenza and COVID to spread. When we all get vaccines, kids with special health care needs stay healthy.
Ask your pediatrician how you can advocate for your child's needs in school. Being at higher risk for severe disease should not keep kids and teens out of school. All children and teens have the right to learn and thrive.
For more guidance to help your child with special health care needs in school, contact your pediatrician. They can connect your family with home and community-based services. That way your child will be on the right path to success.