Arthritis is typically associated with older people or middle-aged people, but not usually children. However, arthritis affects 300,000 children in the United States. While we often discuss problems that arise from physical limitations caused by arthritis, typically the discussion is focused on adults and their work, home, and leisure activities.
Support Starts at Home
It's difficult enough to work with arthritis, but what must it be like to go back to school with arthritis? It's hard enough for kids to face a new teacher, new friends, and sometimes a new school environment. But to face it while being the kid in class who is a little different than the others?
Actually, children will thrive under these circumstances if they feel prepared, supported, and loved. The love starts at home -- and it is essential. It's essential because children need to feel that home is a safe place and parents are their protectors. They will be willing to tackle school if they feel loved and protected at home.
Preparation and support go hand-in-hand. It is best to prepare the teacher and fellow classmates about your child's medical condition. This is done first and foremost to inform them, and secondly, the hope is that informed people become compassionate and helpful people.
The Informed Become Protectors
Your child may have difficulty keeping up with other children. Your child may need to take medications while at school. He or she may become easily fatigued. Some of the other children may intuitively realize something is different but others may view it as an opportunity to bully.
It may be wise to meet with the parents of other children in the classroom. The meeting would serve to teach other parents about kids with arthritis -- and would encourage them to enlighten their kids about what's different and how to respect someone with arthritis.
The aforementioned recommendations pertained to bringing awareness to the teacher, other kids, and other parents. It may be equally important to open a line of communication between you and the teacher about how well your child handles tasks and homework. Establish the fact that you want to know if your child falls behind immediately, and you want opportunities for your child to catch up when the disease causes your child to fall behind.
Also, find out what the teacher needs from you. Do they want you to contact them if your child is having a bad day, even if they go to school? Do they want a heads up if your child has started a new medication and there may be an adjustment period?
Should your child have an assigned buddy? An assigned buddy would be a classmate who could help carry your child's books on bad days -- or make a copy of their class notes for days your child must be absent.
As the parent, you should be involved in school conferences. Children whose parents are involved at school have a better experience. Conferences afford parents the opportunity to meet more teachers, school administrators, and other parents. More interaction, more communication.
The Bottom Line
Essentially, it comes down to communication. Your child will face difficult moments in school. As long as the parents, teacher, and other classmates are aware of your child's situation -- your child will not feel alone with arthritis. Your child will feel surrounded by people who are ready to help and always there to support.