My child has a chronic health condition. What do I need to tell the school?
If your child has special health needs, the school should have a written document outlining a health care and emergency plan.
The following information should be in the document:
- A brief medical history
- The child's special needs
- Medicine or procedures required during the school day
- Special dietary needs
- Transportation needs
- Possible problems, special precautions
- Pediatrician's name
- Emergency plans and procedures (including whom to contact)
Once the school is informed a student has a chronic health condition, a meeting is often scheduled to discuss what services may be needed. The meeting should include parents, the student (if old enough), school health staff, the coordinator of special needs services, student aids, and the child's primary teacher. Health care providers, such as the child's pediatrician, also should be invited or asked to provide information in writing.
One goal of this meeting is to develop a written plan that clearly describes the services the student needs. Depending on the child's needs, this plan may be described as a 504 Plan or an Individualized Education Program (IEP). This legal document outlines exactly what services the child will receive and sets short- and long-term goals for the child. The plan should be reviewed regularly to ensure it continues to meet the child's needs.
The following are ways you can help your child receive the education and services he or she needs to succeed in school:
- Talk to the school. Don't be afraid to tell the school about your child's condition. Some parents worry about sharing this information, but the more informed teachers and other school staff are, the better prepared they will be to help your child. If the school staff don't have all the facts, they may make wrong assumptions about your child's behavior or performance.
- Make an emergency plan. Ask your pediatrician to help you write down exactly what the school should do if your child has certain health needs. School staff should know how to reach you or your pediatrician in case there is an emergency. Remember to call the school right away when contact information has changed.
- Make a health plan. If your child takes medicine at school, ask about the school's policies for storage and self-usage. Make sure your child is able to take her medicine in a comfortable place, and that the school is provided with an adequate supply. Remember to call the school right away if there are any changes in your child's condition.
- Give your consent. You will have to sign a release form that gives the school permission to contact your pediatrician. Also, your pediatrician will need your written permission to discuss your child's condition with the school. If your child requires medicine or special procedures, the school must receive written instructions from your pediatrician.
- Plan ahead. Meet with your child's teachers regularly to talk about how your child is doing at school. Ask if your child's health condition is affecting her schoolwork or behavior. If your child is missing a lot of school due to illness, talk with her teacher about ways to help her keep up with her work.
Know the Law
By law, your child is entitled to an education that will help her develop to her full potential. Schools may be required to provide additional services that will assist in both in-school programs and after-school events. Federal laws such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) state that every child should be allowed to attend school in the "least restrictive" setting possible.