Children with renal failure sometimes struggle at school.
They may be behind educationally as a consequence of missing weeks of school over the years. In our experience this can pose problems; the accumulative effect of such absences can cause learning problems.
They may have difficulty keeping friendships.
Some of them struggle with the physical effects of their illness, such as short stature, skin problems or the need to change bags.
Their families may be stressed.
They can have real problems at the change from primary to secondary.
All of these factors put them at some risk educationally, but we believe that individual schools are in a powerful position to make a difference for them.
Please be aware of the following signs of stress:
* Behavioural changes
* Sudden decline in school performance
* Detachment from friends
* Significant non-attendance at school
* General withdrawal
International studies show that students with chronic health problems are less likely to succeed educationally without support.
School plays an important part in the life of a child with renal failure. Teachers can make a significant difference in their lives.
How the teacher can help
* Encourage the child and talk to them about their needs; they are the experts.
* If they are away from school, keep in touch, and encourage friends to do the same.
* Set them schoolwork similar to that of their friends in class when they are absent so that they stay involved.
* For older children, look at ways of enabling them to catch up after absences.
* When they are hospitalised encourage contact, e.g. by sending cards or visiting.
* Keep them involved if there is a special class project or production.
* Encourage peer support networks.
* If they get behind in school work offer special support if possible.
* Keep in touch with the family so that you are aware of any changing needs. Make sure your school has a key person to do this.
* Make sure all staff are aware of their needs.
* Adapt the school day to suit their needs if necessary – e.g. to fit around treatments, especially if they are on dialysis.
* Sort out how they will manage PE or school camps.
* Make sure that they have a place of refuge for when they are tired and a place to carry out medical procedures.
* When they are ready to move into the workforce, make sure that they have transition help and that their goals are attainable.
Moving into High School
This can be a difficult time. Discuss their needs with the family and enable them to make an out of zone enrolment in time if needed.
Support and advise them
Make sure that the secondary school is aware of their special health needs and /or extra educational needs. Your school is expert on the child’s educational needs at this stage.
We urge you to act as their advocate.
Guidance staff at secondary school are invaluable. During adolescence the child with renal failure may need special support from guidance staff. We encourage guidance staff to form a good relationship with this child so that they know who they can go to for help.
Assess whether they need/can handle a full school program. It is a good idea to have regular meetings so that any problems can be addressed early.
You and the school nurse are likely to be the key people keeping in touch with the family and monitoring the student’s needs. You can initiate good support from the Transition staff at the right time.
Medical advances have dramatically improved these children’s lives. The challenge to educators is to enable them to succeed at school, to be happy there and to make the transition to the post school world successfully.
This article is courtesy of Kidney Kids NZ.
Disclaimer: Articles are general comment, not advice. The information is believed to be accurate and reliable, but no responsibility is taken for any opinions expressed or for errors and omission. Readers should never act on the basis of the material without taking professional medical advice relating to their particular personal circumstances.