Every day you send your child off to school, you are handing over precious cargo, with strong hopes that their day will be full of new opportunities. Likewise, as a teacher, every day, I welcome children into my classroom and hope for the same! When your child has a chronic disease, such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), there are additional challenges for both parties to make each day positive for your child. When striving for success, we must work together to ensure your child feels safe and successful at school.
The first step to ensure support at school is to make a genuine connection with those that will be interacting with your child throughout the day.
In our digital world, it is all too easy to send an email; but health is personal and a face-to-face or video conference meeting early in the school year will make the connection you will need to know that your child’s health story is heard. It would be advisable not to simply ‘drop-in’.
Contact the teacher by phone or email and request a meeting, stating that you would like to share some health information about your child. Invite all school staff that will be in contact with your child, or be sure to request that the information gets passed on to other staff members at the school. Arrive at the meeting with paper copies of information about your child’s disease, symptoms and strategies you have found helpful.
Be sure to provide space and time for the teaching staff to ask questions for clarity.
Decide on an appropriate communication plan between the school, teachers and yourself, along with how the teacher and your child will communicate, including building self-advocacy strategies for your child.
Once the groundwork of information has been laid out, it is important your child feels comfortable navigating IBD symptoms in the school environment every day. Having your child establish a subtle form of communication with their teacher is a great way to build comfort and trust within the school environment. For example, some of my students do not need to ‘ask’ to leave the room to use the washroom.
Instead, they place a small item on their desk, indicating to me that they have gone to the washroom.
This signal is helpful on days when your child needs to make multiple trips. As parents, you might have suggestions for this, and depending on their age, your child may also have ideas of how your child would like to have a sort of ‘secret code’ in school. Another important element of communication is for you to keep the teacher informed of day-to-day issues that may affect your child’s engagement at school.
A flare, for example, can be exhausting and distracting; it is helpful for teachers to know your child is experiencing a flare so that they can modify their expectations and provide extra emotional support when needed.
As trained teaching professionals, we have a background in educating young minds. Still, we are also willing to learn and adapt to support your child and family as you navigate the education system with IBD.
Ultimately, parents and teachers have the same clientele and information is power!
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