This is all daunting to deal with on top of the challenges presented by the IBD itself. The good news is that the law works to protect kids with IBD or any child with an illness or disability. The bad news is that it is up to you, the parent, to ensure that your child is getting the best school experience possible. Much like parenting, it won't always be easy, but it will be rewarding.
Keep the School Informed
The days and weeks following the initial diagnosis of a child's illness are a difficult time, and forging alliances at school probably aren't first in a parent's mind. It is important to do so, however, in order to lay a strong foundation for the future, as the child will experience periods of active disease and remission.
Initially, the principal should be notified in writing of the child's diagnosis. If your child has been hospitalized, a person who will act as liaison between the school and the family should be chosen. This could be a hospital social worker, nurse, psychologist, or even the principal. This person will be important in helping your child integrate back into school after diagnosis, and therefore should be someone trustworthy. Parents will need to sign a release form to allow the hospital and the school to communicate about the child's health.
Often a child with IBD or other illness will need to take medication while at school. Since the parent can't be there, someone on the school staff must administer it.
First, the school principal and/or the school nurse need to be contacted and made aware of the need for medication. The school should have a policy for medication that is in compliance with the state. Second, it is important to know exactly who will be giving the medication, and what type of medical training they have. Follow-up periodically with the nurse or teacher, and check any medication log the school may keep. Additionally, be sure to keep medical forms at the school with the child's current condition and medications up-to-date.
A note from the doctor explaining the drug, dose, time it should be given, potential side effects, and the condition the medication is for should be given to the school. This is true for both over-the-counter and prescription medication. Written permission can also be given for the school nurse to administer over-the-counter medication when necessary, as in the case of a headache.
Classmates and Teachers
It is important for children to stay in touch with classmates while hospitalized or recuperating at home. Parents can check in with the teacher at regular intervals, and deliver notes or other communications to the classroom.
Some tips to keep your child in touch with classmates:
- Invite a nurse or social worker to speak to the class about their classmate. The child should be involved in what information is discussed, especially when dealing with the sensitive topic of bowel habits.
- Pictures of the child can be sent to the class, and vice versa.
- The class can make get well cards, send notes, or make phone calls to keep in touch.
Keeping up with schoolwork is important, when the child is physically well enough to do so. Staying in touch with the teacher to be aware the subjects being taught will be helpful for the child and the parents. Assignments can be sent home with a brother or sister, or be picked up from the school. A tutor may even be requested through the school.
Laws to Protect Kids at School
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees public education for all children with disabilities. This service is free of charge to parents. This law also ensures that children be allowed access to restrooms.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 deals with discrimination in higher education. Medical information can be requested by the school once a student has been accepted, but not on the initial application. Any information given can't be used to keep a student from participating in school activities.
If a child has been discriminated against because of a medical condition, parents can file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, DC 20201.