Families can support their child’s school success by keeping in close contact with teachers. Parents should talk to teachers about plans in the event their child misses school (tutoring, assignment plan, a second set of books to keep at home or online resources for classwork) before a period of illness occurs. These plans can be spelled out formally within a 504 plan. When your child is sick, parents can inform the school, ask for lesson plans and homework, or ask for homebound teachers to prevent the student from falling behind in their coursework. A homebound instructor may be provided by your school district to help students make up schoolwork missed during occasional and extended absences due to hospitalization or health problems that make it difficult to attend school.
Even more importantly, parents should speak with their child’s teacher when the student is feeling well, to develop a relationship when things are calm. Keeping in contact when a student is not ill helps teachers to tell the difference between a student’s typical behavior, and performance that might signal health, learning or behavioral problems. In addition to an introductory meeting at the start of the school year, parents and teachers should check-in with one another as the school year progresses, through phone calls or in-person meetings, to talk about the child’s health status. Finally, parents may also want to talk to teachers about whether or not it’s okay for them to tell anyone about their child’s condition, or explain why their child is absent to classmates or other teachers, in light of their child’s right to privacy. As children grow, their ability to express their needs evolves. In the early elementary school years, parents may discuss all of their child’s healthcare needs with teachers. As children get older it is important to support them in becoming their own advocate. Parents can help their child understand their condition, help them to understand the ways that the school is required to help them keep up with their coursework and reduce the risk of health problems related to their condition, and they can encourage their child to express his or her medical needs clearly.