New year, new teachers, new classmates and new adventures ahead. It's daunting for every child – even more so if they have a medical condition. Here are some tips to keep in mind to make sure they feel safe and at ease when the school year begins.
How and when to tell school or teachers about a medical condition
If your child has a medical condition, it’s probably best to tell their teacher right at the beginning of the school year. Diagnoses like autism, ADHD, food allergies, diabetes or any serious health condition might affect school performance and attendance. So if your child has special medical needs, a quick private chat with their new teacher will help them do their job better.
You might have reservations about informing the school about your child’s diagnosis because you fear they will ‘label’ them. Remember that teachers will only use this information as a way to guide the pupil, make the school environment safer, and possibly individualize their teaching (making the classroom a more suitable learning environment for them).
Also, remember that no one knows your child better than you do, so let the teacher know about anything you have found that works best for them. This will set the foundations for collaboration and open communication throughout the school year.
How your child can tell friends or classmates about their medical condition
School can be a tough place for kids with a medical condition – not because of the H&S policies, student support counselors or allergy free lunches, but because so much of their lives is impacted by what other kids think of them. They don’t want to be labelled as ‘weird’ or ‘different’.
There are many ways you can support your child in telling their friends:
Make sure you have any equipment or medication for your day. Consider how it needs to be stored during school hours.
In order to take proper care of your child – as well as by law – the school needs to know if your child carries any medical equipment, what medication they must take and when. Keep in mind that all prescription medication administered in school settings require written authorisation from your child’s doctor, as well as parent written consent. Also, the medication must be brought to school in the original labelled container prepared by the doctor or the pharmacy.
All medication should be brought to the school by an adult and handed to another adult, until your child is old or mature enough to handle this responsibility. You might not need to carry it every day – you may ask the doctor or pharmacist to divide your child's medication into two labelled bottles, so that one can be kept at home and the other (if allowed) at the school.
In any case, it might be good to prepare a list before the school year starts – write down all the medical supplies your child will need during the school day, to go over every morning and make sure you never forget anything essential.
Another thing to establish is how and where your child’s medication and / or equipment needs to be stored during the day. Generally, all non-emergency medication is stored in locked cabinets / cupboards – this however doesn’t apply to medication that your child might need in an emergency (asthma inhalers, AAIs etc.), which should be quickly accessible rather than locked away. The pupil should know where the medication is, and who to ask when they need it. It would be great to have the medication readily available everywhere your child might spend time (nurse’s office, classroom, etc).
Medicines should be stored in a way that ensures they will be effective when administered; as a rule of thumb, most medication is best kept in a cool, dry place – although specific ones like insulin need to be stored in a fridge. Inform the school on the right ways to store your child’s supplies, so you make sure they won’t stop working due to improper storage.
If possible, give the school medications that won't expire until after the school year ends. Otherwise, make a note on the calendar now so you'll be alerted in time and can replace them.
Are there any other changes or adjustments that need to be made at school?
Good communication is essential to health condition care and management in school – not just because the staff know what to do in case of an emergency, but also so they can implement changes or adjustments in order to avoid one from arising.
Make sure your child carries an ID card or wears a medical bracelet
Even though teachers and school nurses will be informed of your child’s diagnosis, there will always be times at the beginning or end of the day when they are on the bus, or with the lunchroom staff, or walking home alone.
During these transition times, your child still needs to be protected – which is why it’s crucial that they always carry an ID card or they wear a medical bracelet. The bracelet will provide vital information to paramedics and doctors if they are unconscious during an emergency. It’s also a good idea to include your phone number – so you can be contacted straight away if anything happens. A bracelet or card can also carry practical details like a locker or bus number, to help remember these details.
Medical bracelets today can be very subtle and nice-looking – in fact, certain ones (those made of cord for example) could even be customized and done in school colours to match your child’s uniform.
Going back to school can feel like a problematic and worrisome time for you and your child with a medical condition – but it really doesn’t have to be. With just a bit of extra planning, open communication and the right type of adjustments, your child will be able to look forward to the upcoming school year as much as any kid their age.
Supporting children with medical needs in schools (childlawadvice.org.uk)
Asthma Management at School (HealthyChildren.org)
School and children with heart disease (aboutkidshealth.ca)
Teaching children with epilepsy (Epilepsy Society)
Packed lunches | Eating with diabetes (Diabetes UK)
Safe School Lunch Ideas for Kids with Food Allergies (Allergy Awesomeness)
How Sensory Rooms in Schools Can Help Students (green-modular.com)
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