Sep
19
2014

Talking to Teachers About Disabilities and Illness

My daughter has JRA (Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis) and has flare ups form time to time that make normal school activities like writing, participating in PE or carrying her backpack much harder for her. We’ve had to deal with plenty of school absences, surprise doctors’ appointments and everything else that goes along with having a kid with chronic illness all through elementary school. In past years, I’ve always just scheduled a conference with her teacher at the beginning of the year to explain the situation, but this year she’s starting middle school, is changing classes throughout the day and is at the age where she’s become much more sensitive about all this. She’s insisting that she wants to wait and see if she has problems this year before telling any of her teachers, but I think all of her teachers should know about this before the school year really gets underway. As a teacher, what do you think?

I absolutely agree with you! I think that it’s important for your daughter’s health that you contact all of her teachers as soon as possible. It will be to her benefit if all of her teachers are aware of, and sensitive to her condition.

However, that being said, I think that a compromise is in order so as to help your daughter feel less self-conscious. I’d suggest that you call the middle school office and leave a message for each of her teachers asking them to contact you. Leave both your phone number and email address. This will hopefully eliminate any embarrassment that she might feel at having her mom at school talking to her teachers as if she were still in elementary school. Make sure to ask each teacher about policies and procedures for making up missed work and if assignments are posted online.

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