With the percentage of children diagnosed with chronic health conditions on the rise, schools must be actively involved in helping manage these conditions, which often include asthma, diabetes, food allergies, and seizure disorders, such as epilepsy, as well as mental/ emotional conditions, including ADHD. By taking a coordinated and systematic approach to both these students’ education and illness to ensure their needs are met, these students have the ability to reach their maximum potential. Here’s a quick look at five things a school can do to ensure this happens.
1. Provide training programs for staff.
All school employees should have a basic understanding of any exceptional student health conditions. There should be information on the child’s condition, necessary precautions, and what emergency actions to take, such as what to do if a seizure occurs or how to administer medications.
2. Offer home bound instruction when warranted.
Currently, no law specifically requires schools to provide home bound instructions to students who are unable to attend school. Unfortunately, this leaves chronically ill students at a disadvantage by setting them up to quickly fall behind. By providing an instructor, or at the very least arranging for assignments via email and online chats/ Skyping with teachers or an entire class, these students can stay caught up in the classroom.
3. Make reasonable accommodations readily available.
Identifying and implementing specific reasonable accommodations that will make it easier for the student to excel in the classroom is crucial. This could be as simple as allowing a student with scoliosis to keep a set of books in the classroom and at home to avoid the strain of carrying them back and forth. Or giving a child with chronic gastrointestinal issues a permanent hall pass that can be used to go to the restroom without waiting to ask for the teacher’s permission. For children with ADHD, this could involve allowing extra time to finish tests, while students with a compromised immune system should be allowed to switch seats if a nearby student shows signs of an illness.
4. Develop and implement an Individual Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan.
An IEP, Individual Education Program, outlines customized learning strategies and goals for the chronically ill student. It can define any support services he or she needs to reach their milestones, such as a qualified tutor. Created by teachers, counselors, and school psychologists, usually with parental input, this may include providing additional time for projects or providing special education services when deemed necessary. A 504 Plan specifies any physical accommodations needed to help the student navigate around the school and receive the same access to school activities, facilities, and instruction as students without a chronic physical disability.
5. Create an Emergency Care Plan.
Emergencies, such as a poorly controlled seizure, can happen and are best handled when there is a plan already in place. Any staff members who are in contact with the child should have basic training on what to do, where life-saving medications are kept, and how to notify the office that medical assistance is needed.
By identifying the special need child and having an emergency plan in place, the school is ensuring that every child can accelerate. After all, this is the goal of education; developing our young people.