How to prepare to go Back to School after an IBD diagnosis

Going back to school is a time of excitement and anticipation. But if your child has been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), it can also be stressful. Inflammatory bowel disease is a term used for two gastrointestinal (GI) conditions — ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease — characterized by chronic inflammation and sores in the GI tract.

The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America estimates that as many as 80,000 children in the US may be affected by IBD.

Day-to-day symptoms of IBD can have a major impact on your child’s ability to attend all of his/her classes and social events, which can affect their social life and possibly their grades. Typical symptoms of IBD include:

  1. Diarrhea Constipation
  2. Vomiting
  3. Abdominal pain
  4. Fatigue

If your child has recently been diagnosed with IBD, we've got a few tips to help you ensure that your child receives every opportunity to be able to succeed at school.

Talk to School Administration in Advance

Before the school year begins, talk to appropriate administration at your child’s school, including the school nurse, the principal, and your child’s teachers. Explain to them that your child has a medical condition that will require certain leniency in order for them to attend classes and complete all exams.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that public schools in the US provide special accommodations to children with disabilities in order to grant them the right to an equal and fair opportunity to receive a successful education. Under this act, you can work with your child’s school’s administration to outline what your child may need, including the ability to:

  1. Make up any work or tests that were missed in the case your child was hospitalized due to his/her IBD
  2. Use the restroom as frequently as needed (possibly in the form of an unrestricted bathroom pass)
  3. "Stop the clock" during test taking if your child has to leave to go to the bathroom, starting the clock again when your child returns

Have a Plan for Medication

Part of IBD treatment includes taking daily medications. These medications are an important step in reducing the number of flare-ups. When not taken as directed, your child may have a flare-up, and their condition can worsen. In order to help your child remember to take his/her medications, set daily phone reminders so they don't miss medication doses before school, or leave them a note with their medications laid out next to their breakfast. We would also recommend leaving “backup doses” of your child’s medications with the school nurse, in case your child does forget a medication dose.

Look Up Cafeteria Menus in Advance

Ask the school’s administration to provide you with menus from the school cafeteria. Ask whether these menus change on a daily or a weekly basis and for a list of ingredients used in all food served. This will help you decide whether you need to pack a lunch for your child. It’s also important for you and your child to understand what foods should not be eaten from the cafeteria in order to avoid a flare-up.

Map Out the Bathrooms in Your Child’s School

Before the school year begins, ask school administration if you can walk through the school with your child and locate the bathrooms. Knowing where the bathrooms are located can help alleviate some stress in the event that your child needs to use the bathroom urgently. Moreover, when your child has the opportunity to familiarize him/herself with the school, without the pressure of being surrounded by classmates, he/she is likely to feel more comfortable.