Being “sidelined” from chronic medical condition symptoms can be both overwhelming and depressing. Though the comfort zone of home will inevitably lure us from school toward the “path of least resistance” on those rough days, unfortunately, the more you miss school, the harder it can be to go back. Research shows that students are less likely to succeed if they are chronically absent from school AND missing school can be the first warning sign that students could be struggling with school anxiety or avoidance. Attending school also provides a much-needed sense of “normalcy” in midst of challenging medical issues and helps us develop coping skills to function and thrive in spite of what may be an ongoing, lifetime condition.
It’s going to take some work. You’re going to have to push your body to do things it doesn’t want to do but it will be well worth it to stay in the driver’s seat and not let your condition rob you of a full life! It’s not going to be easy but you can learn to function and even thrive despite chronic medical conditions through a team approach: Student, Parent, Medical Provider, School Administrator/Guidance Counselor, School Nurse, Teachers. Everyone needs to be on the same page.
Pace Yourself. Moderation is the key: Don’t underdo it, but don’t overdo it either! “Underdoing it” leads to withdrawal and isolation. “Overdoing it” could make you “crash” and then just stay in bed all day. Give yourself a break when you need one but then go back and tackle the task or goal. Just don’t stop or you might get stuck! Whatever the pace, keep moving forward.
Be sure to communicate pertinent medical information. Request to meet with your school team to share medical documentation and discuss most appropriate accommodations and supports available to address these needs in the school setting. Additionally, a gradual one-to-two week (sooner is better than later) school-reintegration is often helpful in cases of previous extended absence. Physically entering the building is often half the battle. A successful school intervention plan includes the student showing up at school and trusting the school staff to implement it. Since there is no “one-size-fits-all” plan, it may also take a little time to adjust and better individualize it once you have attended school for several consecutive days. Medical release of information documents can further open up lines of communication between the medical provider and school to tweak the plan, as needed.
Stick to the plan! Only stay home from school if you have a severe injury or a condition that could jeopardize the safety of yourself or others. In such cases, your medical team should provide additional information to help your school team determine an alternative plan. If you don’t push it, you’ll never get past it!
Develop an extended school support system of appropriate personnel and friends with whom you can share basic information about your condition. When appropriate (e.g. when you are having a particularly hard time being at school due to your typical struggles), talk about your feelings with these team members. You don’t have to focus on your physical symptoms (that can make them worse)!
Celebrate Success and don’t look back…except to view how far you have come!