Back to School with IBD
Sorry for the hiatus again- I am still getting situated into a new commuting lifestyle and figuring out how to balance my time between work and the blog is proving to be challenging. My plan is to continue to blog but I am not sure how frequently it’ll happen. That being said, I will do my best to make the posts that I do write extra special!
The start of the school year reminded me of those days and made me think about all the young kids and teenagers I know who have Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. I don’t have children but I can sympathize what it’s like to go to school feeling different. I spent my junior year of high school in and out of classes because of severe anxiety and agoraphobia that eventually landed me at home for the rest of the school year (I’ll elaborate more on that in another post).
Going to school can be difficult when you have an illness but it can be especially hard when you have IBD. A nurse at Seattle Children’s Hospital recently authored a blog post for the hospital’s website with tips for heading back to school with IBD. The tips were very informative and I wanted to share them and elaborate on them.
Know what your child’s concerns are as he or she heads back to school
- Make sure you know what your child’s fears are- is he/she afraid of telling their peers about the illness? Is your child worried about being able to go to the bathroom at any time? It’s important to outline each concern so that you (the parent) can ensure that the school and your child’s teacher are aware of potential problems.
Advocate for your child at school
- Building on the first tip, don’t be afraid to go to your child’s school and talk to the important people there- nurse, guidance counselor, teacher, principal. Make sure those who are important know what’s going on with your child. Additionally, try to encourage teachers, the school nurse, counselors and coaches to review information on Crohn’s and colitis.
Bring an extra set of clothes to school
- Accidents happen, no matter your age. So make sure your child is prepared for the worst by having an extra set of clothes and multiple pairs of clean underwear should something happen.
Develop a 504 plan
- Work with school officials to come up with a 504 plan for your child. Section 504 plans provide for accommodations that a child should have in place to help ensure their success in school. You can get input from your child’s gastroenterologist, psychologists and other professionals as to what should be included in the plan. The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America has a great template 504 plan written up to help you write your own.
Stop the clock for testing
- Ensure that your child is able to have stop-the-clock breaks during tests. According to the Michigan Department of Education, stop-the-clock breaks are an accommodation for students who do not need extended time on exams but whose conditions may interfere with the full use of testing time. These breaks will allow for your child to get up and use the restroom as needed without being penalized by missing time on the exam.
Make sure your child has healthy snacks to eat, and a water bottle to stay hydrated
- Many children with IBD can’t eat a full meal in one setting or have to eat small snacks throughout the day instead of a few large meals. Ensure that your child has plenty of IBD-friendly snacks to eat throughout the day to prevent any drops in blood sugar or other issues. Additionally, if your child has diarrhea, dehydration is a real possibility. Make sure he/she has plenty of water with them to drink throughout the day to prevent any problems.
Discuss a late-arrival plan with school officials
- With the gastrointenstinal tract waking up at the same time as your child, morning time can be difficult. Cramping and prolonged bathroom trips in the morning are a real possibility and can make your child late to school. Ensure that the school is understanding and try to arrange a schedule for your child that allows for late arrivals. If that isn’t possible, work with their teacher to figure out how to make up missed class time or accommodate for late arrivals.
Make sure your child has an “out” on days when PE classes may not be a good fit
- Physical activity can be hard when you have IBD- between the stomach pain, fatigue and general malaise, running around and being active can be difficult for your child. Work with your child’s teacher so that they understand your child’s outward appearance isn’t always indicative of how they are feeling internally- your child should be the one to determine their level of participation in gym class each day. Partner with their teachers to come up with alternative activities to do on off days that come without penalty and can be done discreetly without calling attention to your child.
Here are two other additions that I came up with:
Designate a friend to gather homework
- If your child is going to be absent, try and find a dependable friend who will find out what your child missed and bring home notes and homework for them.
Make sure the school nurse has an up-to-date list of medications and side effects
- It’s critical that the school knows what your child is taking and the possible side effects they may experience. In order for the nurse to provide the best care possible when your child isn’t feeling well, they need to know what they are taking so that the nurse can administer appropriate pain medications and other things to help them feel better without causing additional problems.
What tips do you have for IBD patients and their parents for the new school year?