Advocating for Your Child with Chronic Pain
When it comes to children with special needs, most teachers are trained on how to deal with intellectual and learning disabilities. Even if they do not have specific training, they will have a team of special education professionals who are ready to assist them in providing appropriate modifications for these children. If your child has a chronic pain condition, you may find that the school services are less accommodating. Here’s how you may be able to advocate for your child.
Know What Your Child Needs
According to Boston Children’s Hospital, research has found that children with chronic pain conditions do best when they attend school regularly. Being in the classroom and around their peers makes it easier for these kids to cope with their pain. While they will have days that they have to miss, your goal should be to keep them in school whenever possible.
In most instances, even for those children who have debilitating pain, accommodations make it possible for children to succeed in spite of their condition. Often, the classroom and its distractions can take the child’s mind off of the pain.
Talk to the School About Accommodations
While your goal should be to have your child in school, for your child’s own well-being, you may need to ask for some accommodations. First, if your child has missed a significant amount of school while dealing with the pain condition, you may need to ask for a gradual return to the full demands of school. Taking it a little at a time, with plans for summer school and tutoring to catch up if needed, will help make the transition a more positive one.
Next, take some time to figure out what might be triggering pain episodes at school. If it’s possible to create a plan to avoid those triggers, talk to the child’s teacher and the administration about what needs to happen. Triggers may be classes, like physical education, that require a lot of movement, or they may be situations like extended sitting that can be avoided with modifications to the classroom environment.
If your child struggles to carry heavy backpacks, talk to the school about adding extra books to the classroom or allowing your child to keep a set of books at home, so she does not have to carry books in a backpack at the end of the day or from her locker to the classroom.
When pain gets out of control, it’s easy for a child to want to go home. Try to find a place in the school that the child can go to get a break from the demands of the classroom so he can gain control of the pain and return to school activities. If the school has a nurse, provide the nurse with the pain medication your child is using so it can be safely administered. Mae sure the child gets to see the school nurse when needed, but also make sure you are working with the teachers to ensure your child is not using the pain as a crutch to get out of demanding school tasks.
Push for a Plan
Children with chronic pain conditions that are officially diagnosed may qualify for an IEP or Section 504 plan. These plans outline the accommodations that the school will make for the child, and also prevent discrimination based on the child’s disabilities. If the pain is significant enough to impair the child’s ability to learn, which can be a common problem, then your child may qualify for an IEP. If not, then the 504 plan may be sufficient to get the necessary qualifications.
Why should you push for a plan? Once a plan is in place, it’s easy for teachers to look at and remember what needs to be done for your child’s success. It also serves as a reference point for you if you feel that your child’s needs are being overlooked. Finally, it serves as a reference point for future teachers to see what has and has not worked for your child.
Chronic pain conditions are often hidden, and it’s easy for your child to suffer under the radar while teachers focus on children with more obvious disabilities. As your child’s advocate, it’s crucial that you don’t let this happen!