Knowhow-Now Article

Working With Your Child's Teacher Regarding Juvenile Arthritis

If your child has been diagnosed with juvenile arthritis, life may not always be easy for them. In particular, school can be challenging; as a result, it is important that their teacher knows about their condition and is on the same page as you regarding their care. To that end, it is crucial that you communicate with them to help them understand the pertinent facts and information related to your child's disease. The following things are important to bring up with their teacher when you talk to them about the diagnosis.

Talk to the teacher about the fact that your child will have to be out of class sometimes to go to the doctor or because of a particularly painful flare-up. Reinforce to them that you take education seriously and that you want to help your child stay on track. If the teacher sees that you are committed, they will be much more willing to keep you in the loop with respect to what is happening in the class and to put together packets of make-up work for your child.

Tip: Double check with your doctor or pharmacist to find out if any of the arthritis drugs you're taking have adverse reactions with food or other drugs. For example, many prescriptions become longer lasting in the blood stream if you ingest grapefruit, leading to higher levels of the medicine in your body than your doctor prescribed.

Let them know that arthritis is painful. Teachers have seen and dealt with a lot, and the children in their classes often exaggerate the way they are feeling to get out of doing work. However, make sure the teacher understands that even though you can't see arthritis, it is present in everything that your child does. If he or she says that they are hurting, it is important that they are taken seriously and allowed the opportunity to relax their hand muscles for a bit. They should still be expected to do their work, but modifications may be necessary, such as circling rather than bubbling in answers.

Discuss your child's physical limitations. There may just be certain things that your child can't do; it is important that their teacher understands what those are so that they don't get frustrated or upset. Some teachers, particularly if they are uninformed, may think a child is acting out. You can help prevent that erroneous assumption from occurring with direct communication.

Tip: Ask your doctor for copies of their notes. Having a copy of what they have written about you will allow you to point out any flaws or mistakes, as well as clarify what the doctor may believe to be aggravating symptoms.

Reinforce to the teacher that you would like to work together to make sure that your child is successful. Don't forget, though, that a teacher has many other students that they are responsible for too. Don't monopolize their time with daily emails, but perhaps requesting a bi-weekly check-in would be appropriate. Make it as easy on the teacher as possible; generally, sending a quick email isn't a problem for them. Also, do your part. Don't miss the parent-teacher conferences that are set up by the school, and if you have a real concern, make sure the teacher knows about it as soon as possible.

A diagnosis of juvenile arthritis doesn't have to mean disaster for your child's school career. In fact, they can be very successful, although it is important that you take an active role in the process. Facilitate relationships with their teachers and get those individuals on board with your plans for academic success. Your child will be the one that ultimately benefits.

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