7 Ways to Empower your Asthmatic Child to Speak Up!

B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

If you have a child with asthma one of your worst fears is likely that they will have a severe attack when you are not there to help. Once your child enters school you have to start relying on others to take the lead monitoring your child's health during the day. In a classroom full of kids, it can be difficult for a teacher to catch some of the subtle signs that your child might be having issues with their breathing. That is why it becomes of utmost importance to teach your child to speak up about their asthma—it could save their life.

Here are seven ways to help your child communicate and deal with any breathing issues at school.

Teach your child about their asthma. One of the most important things you can do as an asthma parent is empower your child to talk about their illness and speak up when they are feeling bad. The first thing you have to do is teach them about asthma, what signs they might feel if their breathing is bad and that they should not be embarrassed to ask for help.** These lessons have to be ongoing and age appropriate.**** Role play with your child about ways to discuss any breathing issues.** Role playing is one way to get your child comfortable talking about their asthma. It may seem silly but** the more they practice at home, the better they will be at speaking up when they have to**. Check out the Lungtropolis site for additional tips on empowering your child to speak up.

Talk with your child's teacher and school nurse. Talking with your child's school nurse and teacher are essential in getting everyone on board with their specific asthma action plan. We often forget to include our children in these conversations, but remember -** the more comfortable your child is talking with their teachers and school nurse the safer they will be** with asthma at school.

Pre-medicate to prevent breathing issues. Prevention whenever possible can help avoid these emergencies to begin with. For example, if your child tends to have more issues when exercising** ask your physician** if pre-medicating with albuterol before PE could be helpful. When dealing with a flare up it may be a good idea to have the school nurse evaluate your child at points during the day to insure their breathing is well monitored at school.

Assure your child they will not be in trouble for interruptions.
One of the issues my own asthmatics have with speaking up in class is not wanting to get in trouble for disrupting class. Both of my girls are pretty quiet in class and after hearing kids get in trouble for being disruptive, don't want to be disruptive themselves. It is a work in progress to remind and insure our girls that they will never be in trouble for interrupting class due to a breathing issue.

It is also important to teach your child that if they are ignored that they have your permission to leave class and go to the nurse or use their inhaler. They need to know that in those instances their breathing comes before classroom rules or being polite.** Offer a code or signal option to notify teachers about breathing issues.**
If your child is really shy or embarrassed about their asthma it can be helpful to work out a code with the teacher that doesn't draw even more attention to your child but still allows them to get the care they need quickly. Work with all of your child's teachers to come up with a consistent method of informing them that does not embarrass your child. Continue to educate your child's teachers about your child's signs of impaired breathing so that they can also keep an eye on it should your child not speak up right away.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Kids learn through repetition so - repeat, repeat, repeat The more you talk about and practice these skills the more comfortable your child will be with them if an emergency situation does occur.

It can be scary to send your child to school with asthma, especially when you have concerns about whether they will speak up on their own behalf. Using these tips can help teach your child to be their own best advocate when you aren't there to advocate for them.

Some more great resources for kids:
Tim and Moby explain asthma Asthma articles and graphics for teens and adolesents
_Jennifer has a bachelor's degree in dietetics as well as graduate work in public health and nutrition. She has worked with families dealing with digestive disease, asthma and food allergies for the past 12 years. Jennifer also serves the Board of Directors for Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association (PAGER).ee More Helpful Articles:
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