Back to school time is here, and for many families, there is an excited frenzy that accompanies it. While children’s faces light up at the thought of new clothes, backpacks and accessories, their parents simultaneously feel relief and stress. These feelings can be amplified for parents of children with chronic heart disease (CHD), especially if your child is attending school for the first time, or transitioning to a new school.
That stress can be alleviated with just a bit of preparedness, which, thankfully, it’s not too late for!
Size up the Situation
First step for any plan is to get an idea of what you’re dealing with. Is your child just starting kindergarten or is she going into middle school? Younger children may need more emotional support since attending school is a new experience altogether. Older kids may have more peer expectations to participate in extracurricular activities. In any case, you’ll want to think about classroom needs: supplies and learning requirements; and overall considerations: meals and supplies to bring to the nurse.
Think about the school’s setup. If your child gets winded easily, take note of what floor the classrooms are on and whether or not she has time to get where she needs between classes. Find out if your child’s school has automated external defibrillator (AED) devices, and whether or not all teachers are trained in CPR.
Plan for Emergencies
No parent wants their child to experience an emergency at school. It should be a safe place where learning, growth and only positive things happen. But sometimes emergencies take place and your ability to deal with them often comes down to how well prepared you are ahead of time.
It’s especially important for parents of children with CHD to be in communication with school officials: teacher, administration and nurse. Work with these folks to create, and then write down, a plan for emergencies. Make sure everyone has a copy of that plan so that if the time comes, you all know what to do. Although emergencies are unlikely to occur, having a written plan can make everyone feel more comfortable about caring for your child during the school day.
Make sure your child wears a medical ID bracelet with the doctor’s name and contact information. If for some reason something happens at school, a medical ID bracelet can provide critical information quickly to the school nurse, teachers, or others right away.
Dive into Learning
Most children with mild CHD do not have developmental disabilities, but more than half of those with a more severe form of CHD may have some form of disability or impairment. This can make the idea of attending school a daunting one. If your child is just starting school, take note of learning struggles as she progresses through the year. You may want to have her evaluated. If she has already been diagnosed with a learning disability and has an individualized education plan, review it to make sure no changes are needed.
Schools are notorious carriers of germs and diseases. Pretty much anything and everything will be passed around from family to family. In this environment, it’s extremely critical that children with CHD take precautions to prevent minor illnesses that can worsen. Send your child with extra tissues and hand sanitizer or anti-bacterial wipes, and encourage frequent hand washing. At home, make sure your child keeps up her energy levels with healthy meals and plenty of sleep.
For more information about parenting a child with a chronic heart disease, visit Mended Little Hearts.
Sources: Mended Little Hearts, CardioSmart, Children’s Hospital of Michigan