Back to School with IBD – Part I: Meeting the Teacher
While Back-to-School night is a great opportunity for parents and teachers to connect, it is not the time or place to discuss your child's medical issues with his or her teacher. Instead, it will be up to you to call your child's school and arrange a meeting with the teacher, prior to the start of school (your child's teacher will most likely be in the classroom at least a few days prior to the return of the students). It is also absolutely acceptable for you to request the school nurse be present at the meeting. Sharing information about your child with the teacher and the nurse can help your child make a smooth transition back to school. Below are five talking points to use as a starting place for your first meeting with the teacher.
Just because someone has a nursing degree, it doesn't mean that he or she knows everything about every medical condition (there is just too much information for any one medical professional to know). For this reason, it is a good idea to bring some basic information about your child's disease to the first meeting. It might be as simple as a handout or two from your doctor's office, or a page of general information from a support group. Providing a copy to each individual at the meeting without quizzing them on their knowledge, will help put everyone on the same page, without putting anyone on the hot seat.
Discuss with the teacher (and the nurse) how the disease impacts your child in particular. Even if the teacher had a student in the class the year before with a similar condition, it doesn't mean your child will have the same needs as that child. Try to keep this part brief and to the point. Spend some time thinking through which aspect of the school day may run head on to the disease. Address only these issues, and avoid going into more detail than is otherwise needed.
3. Foreseeable Problems
Give the teacher a chance to react to what you have explained. Try not to be disappointed if the teacher seems immediately negative or overwhelmed (she may be thinking to herself that five bathroom breaks an hour will never work). Special accommodations will be an adjustment for everyone. Remember, you have had months, if not years, to adjust to your child's disease. Sometimes, individuals just need a bit of time to adjust and think through some of the implications and options.
4. Strategies for Success
Now is the time to let the teacher (and nurse) know that you are there to help make your child's school year a success. Go back to step number three and ask how you might contribute to the various solutions to achieve a positive outcome for both the student and the teacher.
5. Preferred Method of Contact
It wasn't long ago that if you wanted to contact a teacher, you needed to call the school office before or after the school day. Today, that is almost an outdated concept. Many teachers prefer direct contact via email, and some of the younger professionals may even prefer you to call them directly on their cell phone during their planning period or even send a text if there is information to be shared. It is important that each person at the meeting exchange information with one another on their preferred method of contact.