It's that time of year again. That time when
it's still summer, but time for school to start is sneaking up on us. Parents
know that time all too well. There are school clothes and supplies to be
purchased, class and bus schedules to review, and seemingly countless other
details to deal with.
When your child has a chronic illness, whether
Migraines, or a different illness entirely, we really can't
afford to put off getting our children ready for school. There are extra steps
that need to be taken; extra preparations that need to be made. In the Miss
America scholarship pageant program, they have a motto. They call it "the Ps..."
School rules have made it more complicated for
chronically ill children and their parents. Many schools have a "zero tolerance"
policy about medications, including simple over-the-counter medications. Some of
these policies are so inflexible that students have been
expelled for having Advil with them at school. Some schools also have very
attendance policies that complicate matters for students with a chronic
Let's take a look at some of the prior
preparations that need to be done before school starts...
Check on the school's policies before calling
or taking your child to the doctor so you'll be able to address all your needs
with one call or visit. Do yourself the favor of making a list of what to ask
when you call the school and notes of the information you get.
- Check to see if your child needs a letter
regarding their illness or any medical records, including immunization
records, to take to school.
- Check with your child's school regarding
their attendance policy...
- What and how many absences are excused
with a note from parents?
- What necessitates a note from the
- When a child has a chronic illness, is
the absence policy different if there's a letter on file from the
- Is there a maximum number of days
beyond which absence from school results in failing grades or problems
moving on to the next grade level?
- Check with your child's school regarding
their policies about children taking medications at school...
- Are children allowed to keep OTC
medications with them? Prescription medications?
- If they must leave their medications with
a school nurse or someone else...
- who is this person and what are their
qualifications to dispense medications?
- who is the backup person if the person
usually in charge of helping ill students is unavailable?
- where are the medications stored?
- what are the labeling and other
requirements for you to send medications to school?
- if your child needs their medication, how
long will it take for them to get it?
- Is your child required to take a physical
education class? Will this impact their illness? If so, what arrangements
need to be made?
- If you child rides a bus to school, do you
know the route and whether riding the bus or waiting at the bus stop will
affect your child's health?
Once you've gotten all the information you need
from your child's school, make a list of questions to ask, prescriptions to
request, and information to get from their doctor.
- Do you need immunization or other records
from the doctor?
- Do you need a letter about your child's
illness and treatment plan?
- If physical education class is a problem,
do you need a letter or recommendations from the doctor?
- If your child is young and outdoors recess
is a problem, do you need a letter from the doctor?
- If you have to send medication to school
in its original prescription bottle, do you need an extra prescription for
- Does your doctor have recommendations for
handling your child's illness at school?
- Will your child be coming home after
school, or going to an after-school program or babysitter? If they're going
to a program or babysitter, be sure that whomever will be caring for your
child has all the information and medications your child may need.
- If your child is old enough that they will
be staying at home alone before you get home from work, be sure they
understand what they need to do after school and how and when to call for
- Always arrange a backup for your after
school set up.
Back to school
- Decide if all issues can be handled via
telephone, letters and forms, or if you need to meet with your child's
teachers and/or school officials.
- Children with chronic illnesses should
usually wear some kind of
identification. Be sure your child has it, wears it, and that it's up to
- If you're sending notes or letters to the
school, and they're going to an administrative office, you may want to make
copies for your child's teachers.
- Be sure your child knows who has their
medications and what to do when they need them at school.
- If you need to fill prescriptions or get
an extra supply of OTC meds to take to school, now is the time. If you plan
to take meds you already have at home, check to be sure they're not past
their expiration dates.
- Talk to your child to be sure they
understand any testing and treatment they may need at school and when they
should ask that someone from the school call you.
- Talk to your child and be sure they know
that they should never accept medication from another student. This is also
as good a time as any to talk with them about illicit drugs that my be
around the school and alcohol.
- Be sure to give your child plenty of
opportunities to ask you questions or express their concerns or fears. The
stress of worrying or being afraid can exacerbate their illness, and you'll
feel better knowing that they feel safe and secure.
A child's school years can and should be some
of their best. They're learning academically and socially, and developing so
quickly that we wonder where the time has gone. Prior preparation can indeed
prevent poor performance in the case of caring for your child's illness. Don't
stress you or your child by putting it off. To help ensure that your child gets
the care he or she needs at school, I've prepared forms for you and your doctor
to complete and give to your child's teachers and school nurse. To download
these forms, CLICK HERE.
Medical review by
John Claude Krusz, PhD, MD
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© Teri Robert, 2010. Last updated July 15, 2010.