Cooperative Extension Fact Sheets
School Age Child Care #1
When Illness or Medical Conditions Come To Child Care
Children are no strangers to medical conditions and illnesses that would seem to set them apart from other children their age in school and in child care situations. Children want so badly to belong, to fit in , to not be different from their peers. It is sometimes a difficult job for the teacher/caregiver to know how to best react to the child with the disability.
From the web site Bandaids and Blackboards: "When Chronic Illness…or Some Other Medical Problem Goes to School, the children themselves tell us how they would like to be treated."
The following are excerpts from that site.
Tips for Teachers:
- "I wish that you would treat me like a student instead of like a patient. I'm not sick, so when you ask me if I feel OK all the time, this heart problem that I have feels like a heavy weight.'
- "I really want to be just like everybody else, so please don't expect me to give lessons about my leukemia to the class. Then I stand out like a sore thumb."
- "I have to drink a lot of water to stay healthy, and it was nice of you to let everyone in the class keep water bottles on their desks. It didn't make me feel weird."
- "When kids were making fun of me for being clumsy, you had a class meeting about all of our differences. I never thought of my MD that way before, and it really helped me."
- "Remember the bag of hospital supplies that I brought to class? Thanks for letting me show the stuff to everyone. I felt really cool, since I knew what everything was, and most of the other kids didn't"
- "What a surprise to get a videotape from the class when I was in the hospital. All the other kids were so impressed. My roomate said, 'boy, you must really be popular'."
Hints for Teachers:
- You should know the protocol for emergencies and acute illnesses, so make sure that the nurse or the parents have provided you with sufficient information about the medical conditions of the children in your care. It is important to communicate reassurance to both the child and the other children if acute illness does occur.
- I hope that you will be sensitive to when NOT to show concern, like when a child with cystic fibrosis is coughing. The cough is important to clear the lungs. Paying too much attention to a symptom often makes it worse and reinforces a child's sense of shame.
- Children with medical problems are often overly sensitive. Don't perceive their behavior as babyish or immature or a serious emotional problem. By reinforcing positive age-appropriate behavior, you are most likely to increase it. Really!
- Parents may conceal their children's medical problems for fear that the kids will be treated differently. The sad thing about that is that it signals to the children that their conditions are something to be ashamed of or feared.
- "I have individual conferences with all of the children. I ask those with medical problems to explain their conditions to me…in their words. Then I ask how I can help them to be happy and to do well in school. It really sets a positive mood, and they're appreciative that I haven't singled them out in the classroom."
- "What's really sad is to see how hard some kids try to be like everybody else…even if it means not taking medicines that they need, not adhering to prescribed diets, and not paying attention to important symptoms."
- "I've learned that some kids will try to use their medical conditions to get out of work. That's certainly understandable, but not good for them. I try to find a private place to discuss my concerns…without being conspicuous, and this seems to nip the problem in the bud."
- "When I found out that one of my new [students] was hearing impaired, I searched around for a teacher that was, too, and used her school experiences to help me better understand this little girl's needs.'
- "I'm always looking for special ways for children to feel necessary. If they can't compete, I make them the "official" score keeper or team manager, and when I can, I try to teach them something that the other kids don't know how to do."
Submitted by Patricia Cousineau, URI CE Research Associate
For more information please call 401.277.5255
Back to School Age Child Care