3 Tips to Prepare Your Child, with Chronic GI Issues, for School

The start of a new school brings many new exciting and scary changes for children. The new school year brings new teachers, classmates and maybe even a new building. Children diagnosed with chronic digestive diseases often have multiple additional concerns as they head back to school. Pediatric Gastroenterologist, Dr. Annette Whitney has provided some simple back-to-school tips for parents with children who suffer a chronic GI disease.

Tip #1: Schedule a meeting with the school nurse before school starts

Meet with the school nurse as well as the school counselor to discuss your child’s illness. Additionally, provide them with educational material regarding your child’s illness. There is a Teacher’s Guide from the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation as well as other guides from the Celiac Foundation and the North American Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology regarding many chronic GI illnesses. Consequently, use this meeting as a time to explore what the expectations are from both sides. Lastly, provide them with current medical information, medications and any changes that may have occurred from the prior year.

Tip #2 Acquire a 504 plan

The 504 refer to a section of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The plan provides for accommodations that a child should have in place to help them ensure their success in school. For children with GI issues some points are:

  1. Dietary considerations with gluten free, lactose free and/or nut free products
  2. The ability to be late for school more that the allotted times without penalty
  3. Permission to be late for a class if not feeling well
  4. A permanent hall pass to be able to leave the classroom and go to the bathroom without needing to ask permission or sign out
  5. Going to the nurse’s office if there is an accident or issue
  6. An extra set of books to leave at home to allow for makeup work
  7. Stop the clock for testing if there is a timed test and a bathroom break is required and consider more time of standardized tests including SAT and ACT exams

Tip #3: Bring an extra set of clothes, snacks and water bottle to school

Be prepared for the unexpected. Additionally, keep an extra set of clothes in the nurse’s office or a bag in the locker that contains underwear, short/pants, flushable wipes, a discreet air freshener and panty shields in the event an accident does occur during school hours. If the child is aware of the plan to handle this type of situation it tends to be less stressful. Provide the student and the school with healthy snacks/fluids that are acceptable.

Get organized now even if your child is feeling great. A flare-up or exacerbation of any disease can come on without warning-don’t get into a crisis situation without a plan in effect. Lastly, have their teachers, nurse and counselor contact information to keep them informed of what is going on and make sure they have your contact information.

Early and frequent communication between parents, student and school officials is crucial to a successful school year.