The start of the school year is in full swing and with each new school year often comes new questions for many parents regarding the health of their child. For children with medical conditions, understanding when and how to best communicate with teachers and school staff about a child’s medical needs, determining the appropriate amount of information to disclose, and identifying the right programs and services for students who need specially designed instruction or accommodation plans is important but can sometimes be confusing.
Dr. Ashley Moss, pediatric psychologist at Seattle Children’s, shares some key tips on how parents and caregivers can talk about their child’s health issues at school.
Discuss health with teachers and staff
If a child has a health problem, how they are treated at school is important. Caregivers will need to work with their school to ensure that their child’s health needs are met and to give them the same opportunities to participate in school and other activities. Dr. Moss says open communication is key to ensuring the school creates a safe and supportive environment that promotes both learning and participation in activities like their peers. She notes that schools are required to keep information about a child’s health confidential.
Prepare a written care plan
Dr. Moss says a family’s medical team is a key resource for knowing what information is essential to share with a child’s school. Medical teams and chronic disease organizations often have helpful online resources with information to share with school personnel. She also advises parents and caregivers to ask their medical team for accommodation recommendations to share with their child’s school.
Additionally, one of the best ways to ensure students receive the care they need is to have a written care plan that outlines specific care students may need at school, according to Dr. Moss. Written care plans or doctor’s orders are used as the basis for a Section 504 plan or Individualized Education Program (IEP) plan that may include accommodations for children with special health needs.
“Allow your medical team and your child’s school to communicate directly so everyone caring for your child has information about their medical needs,” Dr. Moss explained. “Parents and caregivers are usually required to sign a waiver, which allows the school and medical team to share information. School staff should know how to reach your child’s medical team, especially in the event of a emergency.
Understanding IEPs and 504 Plans
Dr. Moss says there are important differences between an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and a 504 plan, but notes that not all students with disabilities need special education.
“An IEP is developed for children with disabilities who need specialized instruction to meet their educational needs,” she explained. “504 plans are used for students with disabilities who do not need special education but need assurances that they will have access to educational opportunities and services. IEPs and 504 plans should be reviewed and, if necessary, updated annually or whenever there is a material change in your child’s medical condition or treatment. This ensures that students receive the most effective accommodations to meet their school health needs.
Dr. Moss says 504 plans can help bridge the gap for students with chronic conditions and the accommodations provided are designed to break down barriers to learning and empower students to perform at their best. ‘school. She adds that students with health issues may need accommodations specific to their health needs, which can help reduce the impact of their condition on their academic functioning.
“The 504 plan follows children from elementary through high school,” Dr. Moss explained. “Reviewing and adjusting the 504 plan when transitioning to a new school is especially important to ensure new school staff are on the same page as families. Schools often have a 504 or IEP coordinator, so plan to talk to them about your child’s medical needs as soon as possible. You can also talk to your child’s school principal or other school administrators to start the assessment process.
She suggests that parents follow up with their child’s school to make sure they can help in the process of developing a plan.
Share information appropriately
Communicating information about children’s health needs is essential to ensure school staff are prepared to keep your child safe and support their engagement in class and other activities.
“Some parents and caregivers are concerned about sharing information about their child’s health, but the more school staff know, the better prepared they will be to support their child while they are in school,” added Dr. Moss. “If school staff don’t have information about your child’s health and medical needs at school, they may be making false assumptions about your child’s behavior and academic performance.”
It is also helpful to provide a brief medical history, including diagnosis(es), contact information for the child’s medical team, medications or procedures needed during the school day, and any dietary or dietary needs. special transport.
Dr. Moss also suggests having plans in place for missed school hours for medical appointments, trips to the nurse’s office, and other emergency procedures. She advises parents and caregivers to consider thinking about any special precautions, signs or symptoms the school should watch out for and how to respond to these situations.
Communication is key
“When students miss a lot of school due to their medical condition, parents, caregivers and the school should try to reduce the impact on schoolwork and social relationships,” Dr. Moss said. “Keep kids involved with their peers, help them make new friends, and try to maintain normalcy.”
She adds that meeting the needs of children with medical conditions requires a comprehensive, coordinated and systematic approach informed by the medical team.
“Students with chronic conditions can function to their maximum potential when their needs are met,” explained Dr. Moss. “An open line of communication about student health needs can promote better attendance, better engagement, fewer symptoms, fewer restrictions on activity participation, and fewer medical emergencies.”