Handling School with Migraines and Other Chronic Conditions

by Nancy Harris Bonk

Starting the school year with Migraine disease can be a chore for the entire family. Students may feel apprehensive about handling their Migraines in school, while parents worry about whether or not their children's health care needs will be met by the school.

Migraine is a genetic neurological disease and may be episodic or chronic. Those students with episodic (occasional) Migraines can have their pain relief or abortive medication at the nurse's office and take it at the first sign of a Migraine attack. I'd like to discuss the responsibilities and needs for students whose Migraines have become chronic, or suffer from  other chronic conditions. 

There are four distinct elements in each student's school day:

  1. his/her family,
  2. the school's faculty and staff,
  3. the school district, and of course,
  4. the students themselves. 

Students with chronic conditions such as Migraine disease or epilepsy are frequently absent from class. missing homework assignments, valuable instruction time and, of course, their friends. This not only upsets the student, but teachers, family and administrators too. If everyone involved worked together throughout the year with one goal in mind - the student having a successful year - I'm sure the year would be less stressful and finish on a much more positive note. Of course, this will benefit not only the student, but the family, school staff and the administration.

Since each element has a responsibility to make the student's year successful, let's take a look at what the family can do:

  • Notify the school of their child's diagnosis and health regime as early as possible. This is imperative, because schools aren't fond of surprises, and the more information we can give them the better.
  • ALWAYS make sure the school and/or nurse's office has enough medication on hand, in pharmacy containers with appropriate labels, and any other items from home necessary to make your child comfortable in school during a Migraine attack.
  • Remember to let the school know if anything changes regarding the health needs of your child and update the school accordingly, documenting everything. You may want to authorize your child's health care information to be exchanged between the doctor and school health staff to prevent any mistakes in your child's health care regime. The emergency cards we fill out at the beginning of each year are really important for students with Migraines because the school needs to reach you at any and all times in case of that emergency. 
  • As adults, we must learn all we can about Migraine disease in order to take care of ourselves. Parents/guardians need to make sure children and adolescents know about their Migraines in an age-appropriate manner.  
  • Another key component is to participate in developing a school plan for your child's needs and/or accommodations. This is when meeting with the school team to cultivate a plan to make sure your child's needs and accommodations are met in school. 
  • And always send your child to school well rested, well fed, clean and happy!
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