Managing School and Juvenile Arthritis
Knowing your child’s educational rights is an important first step in managing their juvenile arthritis in the classroom.
Children with juvenile arthritis are covered under federal law, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which gives them the right to request and receive certain accommodations from schools that receive federal money.
Another important law protects kids who have a disability against educational discrimination called, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Other things to consider:
Warm-up and get moving.
Stiff, swollen and painful joints can happen on school mornings. Taking a warm bath or shower, stretching and having a good sleep schedule can help. When your child does their best to get to school on time, but simply can’t, it’s important to let school administration and teachers know that there may be days that tardiness is necessary. This is not to support the idea that it’s ok to always be late but to give school professionals a heads up to be lenient if needed.
Creating a comfortable space.
Chairs at many schools can get uncomfortable after long periods of sitting. Bringing proper chair support or cushions will help your child be pain-free while learning. Talk to the teacher about creating breaks in between lessons for your child and to include other classmates in the process.
Many occupational therapists can provide the tools, resources and a targeted plan to help your child succeed at school.
Talk to teachers.
Offer this guide called, Juvenile Arthritis a Teacher’s Guide, that can be found here.
Talk to the school nurse.
There may be a need to bring medication, supplements, ice packs or heating pads so your child can get through the day.
Have the doctor provide a detailed note, so there is no confusion if extra assistance is ever needed.
Create a buddy system.
Partner up with other parents you trust. If your child has a best friend or two, talk to their parents as well. This way they can provide you with class notes, homework or other important information on days when your child is unable to attend school. Of course, always return the favor and give a helping hand!
It can be rough when your child sees other kids doing things they can’t. Some children aren’t bothered by this at all and have the mindset to keep up with other kids.
Others may not handle it too well, especially when bullying comes into play. It’s important for the child to know that everyone learns at their own pace. If they simply can’t do something right now, that doesn’t mean they never will. If they find they aren’t able to do something the way everyone else does it, that’s ok. Modification and getting creative to find alternate ways is always an option.
With that said, focusing on what they can do rather than what they can’t is crucial. Also, if a child wants to be involved with other kids, let them! Holding them back can create fear, worry, isolation and thinking that they can never try. Let them explore.
Talking with a counselor can help parents and children process everything in a productive manner and get a plan in action.