By Abbie Cornett
The beginning of the school year is here again. This annual event comes with the stress and excitement of shopping for clothes, school supplies, reacquainting with old friends and meeting new ones. These preparations are stressful for any family; however, they oftentimes are worse for families who have a child with a chronic illness. Fortunately, there are several steps families can do to reduce the stress, as well as help guarantee your child has a successful start to the new school year.
Preplanning is essential. Make sure your school district is aware of your child's needs in advance. You must give the district time to acquire needed equipment, as well as allow the district time to transfer or hire additional personnel available to assist your child throughout his/her school year. When you contact the school district about your child's needs, use this conversation as a teaching moment to educate the district and school your child is assigned to attend about your child's chronic illness. Many chronic illnesses have advocacy support groups that can provide you with flyers and pamphlets about your child's specific needs. You may then pass along these flyers or pamphlets to the school district and individual classroom teacher to help them understand your child's needs.
Along with preparing the school, prepare yourself. If your child has a chronic illness, become familiar with the protections he or she has for reasonable accommodations in a public school. Federal legislation under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 guarantees equal access to education for students with chronic illnesses. Today, these plans are referred as "504 plans." Every student with a chronic illness returning to school should have a 504 plan in place. Preferably, the 504 plan is completed before the semester starts.
Besides preparing the school and yourself, the most important act you must take is to ensure your child is ready to start the school year. He or she needs your support to prepare for going to school for the first time, attend a new school due to going from elementary school to middle school or high school and/or perhaps begin to set a sleep routine and rising routine three to four weeks before the first day of class.
Many kids are used to summer hours and activities such as staying up late and eating meals based on their altered sleep schedule. Depending on your child's illness, this change in sleep and meal routines from school year to summer and back to school year again may affect how and when they must take their medicines. To ensure your child's body and mind are ready and able to learn, make sure your child is on the needed sleep schedule for rising in the morning, dressing, eating and getting ready to leave for school by the start of the semester. Even following this advice, there is no guarantee your family won't avoid the morning hectic routine; however, this effort will be a good start for preparing your family and your child to put forth his or her best efforts from the first day of school until the last.
The amount of sleep a child needs is based upon his or her age. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends 1:
- Children 1 year to 2 years of age should sleep 11 to 14 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
- Children 3 years to 5 years of age should sleep 10 to 13 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
- Children 6 years to 12 years of age should sleep nine to 12 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
- Teenagers 13 years to 18 years of age should sleep eight to 10 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
To guarantee your family and child are prepared, begin putting your child to bed 15 minutes earlier each day until the bedtime is at the time needed to ensure your child is getting the recommend amount of sleep to be able to learn. As part of that plan, give your child some quiet time before bed by taking their electronic devices away. If your child is younger, use this time to read to him or her. If your child is older have him or her read alone before bed. Lastly, avoid strenuous physically activities, large meals and caffeine before bed.
These simple steps may reduce some of the stress you and your child might experience at the beginning of a new school year. They may also help to ensure their learning success for the school year.
1 Recharge with sleep. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. August 4, 2019 accessed at https://aasm.org/recharge-with-sleep-pediatric-sleep-recommendations-promoting-optimal-health/