Students with chronic health conditions are health resources to their school. Too often, schools see students with chronic health conditions in negative subtractive terms. They overlook the opportunities that these students bring to the school system. In fact, these students provide a variety of comprehensive school health lessons and concrete examples of healthy choices in everyday life.
Safe medication management
Risk management and risk reduction
Self care skills
Balancing risk and restriction
Peer refusal skills
Infection control/hand washing
Self advocacy and self-determination
Healthy air for vulnerable students benefit everyone.
Toxics reduction benefits everyone.
Getting Off to a Good Start: Transition Planning for Children with Chronic Health Conditions
Published in Family-Centered Care Network, a publication of the National Center for Family Centered Care, The Association for the Care of Children's Health, (ACCH), Vol. 10, #4, Summer, 1993. v. 12/02 Ellie Goldberg, M.Ed., firstname.lastname@example.org
When a child has a chronic health condition, getting off to a good start in a new school depends on a little extra thought, information, planning and communication. Don't wait for the start of the new school year. September is a hectic time for both schools and families. Planning ahead will help school entry go smoothly for everyone.
* Schedule an introduction and planning meeting with the school nurse. You want the nurse's full attention so make an appointment. Don't just drop in. The school nurse can help you obtain appropriate services and ensure that school staff receive the information they need to under-stand how your child's condition might affect learning or behavior.
* Write a letter to the school principal to request a meeting to discuss the details of your child's health management at school. The school administrator is responsible for identifying all of your child's health and educational needs and ensuring supports and services are provided.
* At the meeting, you may decide that a formal written plan is the best way to organize information about your child's needs and to document decisions about school services. The plan should include individualized guidelines for managing medications, activity options for physical education and sports, as well as all necessary precautions and special emergency guidelines for recess, lunchtime, field trips and extracurricular or off-site school events. Be sure to suggest ideas for modifications or options in programs, services or policies that you feel will benefit your child.
* Ask about placing your child with teachers who are more experienced or more comfortable than others having a child with special health considerations in the classroom. Also consider the location of classrooms or the distance between activity areas and the school nurse's office before deciding on the best match for your child.
* Help your child develop self-care and communication skills. A patient education program can help your child become knowledgeable about his or her condition, can offer practical daily management guidelines and helps your child become "expert" at explaining his or her health management routine to others. An educational group is especially useful if your child hasn't met other children with similar needs. Their parents can be a good source of suggestions for incorporating health needs into classroom routines and how to establish effective parent-school relationships.
* Consider options that make things simple. Ask your physician about medications or dosage schedules that minimize the number of doses per day. Ask about reminder systems and delivery devices that ensure your child gets the prescribed dose or that allow your child to be as self-sufficient as possible. Check with manufacturers or vendors to see if new products or designs might make your child's equipment easier to use or carry.
* Start new medications and establish new treatment routines before school starts so you can identify and address un-expected reactions, side effects or other problems before they interfere with school attendance.
* Explore community resources. Find out if medical centers, professional associations or local chapters of national organizations offer speakers or training programs for school staff. A doctor, nurse, specialty therapist or equipment vendor might be willing to come to school to familiarize teachers with your child's condition, medication or equipment and devices.
* Provide educational materials and resources to the school in the late spring to give staff plenty of time to make the best use of them. How recently has the staff had an inservice program on asthma? Your information may stimulate interest in an update.
* Obtain school authorization forms for medication and emergency treatment so your physician can fill them out during a checkup or other routine office visit. Keep a supply of forms on hand to avoid delay and inconvenience when changes are necessary.
* Provide the school with your emergency numbers promptly so school records are complete on the first day of school. Keep names and numbers up-to-date.
* Back up planning is an item that you can never cross off your list. Working parents can be caught between inflexible employer policies and frequent childhood illnesses. Don't wait until school starts to start calling around the neighborhood to set up a support system.
* Make sure your back up people know your child's needs and are prepared to act in your place when you can't be reached in an emergency. Provide them with a current authorization for emergency treatment, phone numbers for reaching your child's physician, as well as written medication instructions and other necessary information.
* Review your child's school file at least annually. It may give you some insight into how your child's condition affects her at school. There may be a teacher's notes on learning or behavior that haven't been brought to your attention. You can add your own comments or request that unwarranted comments be removed.
* Switching to public or private school? Carefully read the school's policy book. Although most school changes are for academic or social reasons, the school's health policies can have a big impact on your child's health, sense of security, and success in school.
The world endures solely by virtue of the breath of school children. (Talmud)