It’s time to hit the books! First days of school are popping up across Wyoming in our different districts and that comes with cheers, tears, fears and sometimes all of the above for parents and kids. I hope everyone had a wonderful summer break and I also hope to give a few helpful tips on how to have a successful school year, especially if you have a child with a chronic illness or medically complex condition that can make school time tricky.
#1 - Embrace Your Child’s School Team
As sports, clubs and extra activities start back up, we all know that having a good team makes the experience and the effort go the extra mile! Our schools are filled with excellent teachers, guidance counselors, nurses, administrators and staff that are ready to be a good influence on your student’s life for the next nine months. Having strong, open communication with those within your child’s school that can be supportive while your child learns and grows and deals with his or her illness will be a major win for you all. If your child’s medical needs affect his or her school experience, having the right people in the know about specific needs, absences, and extra support will not only bring understanding for the staff, it will prop your student up to be successful. Start making your A Team on day 1 if you haven’t already!
#2 504 Plans
If your child needs a few accommodations or protections during the school year to ensure they are getting what they need without feeling like they are being punished, a 504 plan could be a great option! This is a free service for all children with documentation of a medical and/or mental health disability. Does your child struggle to see the white board or to hear the instructions from the teacher? Need to have timed breaks to visit the nurse to check blood sugars? Visits with the guidance counselor? A 504 Plan can help put these needs in place to help the student receive the support they need while at school. A 504 Plan does not change the education standards that your student needs to meet according to his or her grade level. It allows your student to have the seat in the classroom they need to ensure they are receiving the instruction they need to understand and complete their work. It makes sure that your child can keep up with their medical check ins with the nurse and not miss out on critical class time. It helps your child process and deal with the issues at hand in order to be able to focus on learning. If you think this may be a benefit to your child, contact your teacher, principal, school nurse or guidance counselor to start the process. If you’d like support behind the scenes or help setting up those meetings with the appropriate staff members, I’d be happy to help you! I can even attend your 504 plan meeting if that would be the most helpful for you.
Individual Education Plan. These plans are also free for families and require a formal multidisciplinary psych or neuropsych evaluation by school personnel. These plans can alter the education standards to set your child up for his or her greatest success. There are different categories of disability according to IDEA. They are Other Health Impairment (OHI), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and Specific Learning Disability (SLD). You can talk to your school psychologist about these different categories to learn more about where your child might benefit from a plan to help him or her in school. Chronic illnesses and medically complex diagnoses do not need to hold your child back! Our schools are ready to help your child achieve the greatest success possible in his or her education. I would be happy to help connect you to staff personnel if you’d like to start a conversation about an I.E.P.
#4 Food Fuels the Mind
Sometimes our medical bills can make other costs of living more challenging to provide for our children. If you are struggling financially because of your child’s healthcare needs, you may be able to provide school meals for him or her in another way! Free and reduced meals are available for children that meet a certain economic guideline. But did you know that even if you do not meet that guideline on paper but are still struggling financially from your child’s medical bills, you can talk to your school principal about receiving free and reduced meals for your student? Having a good breakfast and lunch will help your student through their school day. If this is a challenge to provide at the moment, please don’t hesitate to talk to your school’s principal for more information about how to sign your child up for free and reduced school meals so that he or she can be bright and alert in class! If you would like more information or want support approaching your child’s principal, please reach out to me.
#5 Send your child with love!
School can be an exciting and nerve wracking experience for your child, especially if they have a chronic illness or medically complex condition that can set them apart from their peers. Remind your child that they are loved and accepted! Allow them space to process their feelings and expectations with you about the new school year - and throughout it. Encourage your child to make new friendships and strengthen old ones. Let him or her know that there are safe adults at school that are willing to listen and be supportive in good times and hard times. And have fun! School is a wonderful opportunity for your child to discover the world we live in and find lasting interests that could shape careers.
Happy back to school everyone! If there are other areas that you may want to be supported in for your child/family as you balance school with a medical diagnosis, I would be happy to walk beside you as we search out good resource options for your family. You can call me at the office at 307-333-1273, email me at email@example.com, or find us on social media and our website!