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Back to school tips for kids living with arthritis

Waking up, getting changed, having breakfast, packing bags, brushing teeth, tidying up, and getting to school on time, is difficult for most children and teenagers – let alone carrying the extra burden of managing Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA). Flare-ups can be unpredictable and last from a few hours to a few weeks. Mobility may be limited and pain levels can soar, affecting one’s health and wellbeing. So what can parents and carers do to prepare and ensure that their child gets the most out of school? A team approach is best with ongoing and coordinated support from families, schools, and health professionals. Here are some tips to get started:


  • Share information – The more informed teachers and staff are, the better prepared they will be to help your child. If they don’t have all the facts, wrong assumptions could be made. Arthritis Australia’s teacher's guide is very useful. Alternatively, you could request a health educator to speak to staff or students about JIA in general.


  • Have a care plan -  Ask your child’s health specialist to record what the school should do in the event of a health emergency. Provide the school with contact details of the health specialist, your consent to disclose information, and inform the school if details change. If your child requires medicine at school, ask about the school’s policies on storage and self-usage. Make sure your child is able to use their medicine in a safe and comfortable place, and that the school is provided with an adequate supply. Review the plan on a regular basis.


  • Maintain good communication – Meet regularly with your child’s teachers to monitor progress, as well as asking your child if their health condition is affecting their school work or behaviour. If lots of school is missed due to illness, speak with teachers on ways to help your child keep up with work.


  • Seek additional support - Arthritis SA coordinates a JIA network, where families who have a child with JIA can meet each other at special events. This can be useful for sharing ideas and experiences. The network is also one way to keep updated on new research and resources – such as those available here or here, or finding local support services. Contact us on 1800 011 041 for further information.