How to Develop a Health Plan for Use at School
Provided by: The PACER Center and EP Foundation for Education
When Abby and Jason go to school each day, they need special accommodations for their medical conditions. In the case of Abby, a sixth-grader with epilepsy, it means leaving class at certain times so she can receive her anti-seizure medications from the nurse. Jason, a high-school junior with diabetes, has a permanent hall pass so he can go to the health room at any time if he is feeling ill.
An estimated nine million children in this country have health care needs, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Meeting a child’s health and medical needs can be an important part of providing an education,” said Carolyn Allshouse, coordinator of the Health Information and Advocacy Center at PACER Center in Minneapolis, Minn. “Your Individualized Education Program (IEP) team may be able to help you explain your child’s health needs to other school staff and suggest ways to meet your child’s needs in school.”
Allshouse offers these five tips:
- Communicate with the school. “Let the school nurse, health aid and other school staff know about your child’s health care and medication needs,” Allshouse said.
- Enlist your doctor’s help. Ask your doctor to explain your child’s diagnosis and health needs to the school and identify what non-educational accommodations might be needed. The doctor could put this information in a letter to the school or could participate in an IEP meeting, either in person or by conference call. You will want to make sure that you are always part of conversations between your child’s doctor and school staff.
- Develop a health care plan for the school. Work with your child’s doctor to develop a general health care plan or summary. (See sidebar.) It could include such things as:
- Child’s name, age, gender, grade;
- Doctor’s name and phone number;
- Child’s diagnosis;
- Brief explanation of how the condition affects this child;
- Child’s current medications;
- Recommendations for accommodations to meet the child’s needs.
- Bring copies of the health care plan to the IEP meeting. “It is important that everyone involved with your child is aware of and understands your child’s health needs and how the school may need to respond,” Allshouse said. Allshouse also recommends that the school nurse attend this portion of the IEP meeting.
- Consider having an emergency information form. Depending on your child’s health condition, you may want to have an emergency information form on file at school. This form, signed by your child’s physician, provides additional information such as:
- Medications and allergies;
- Names of treating physicians;
- Typical protocols and procedures for the child;
- Procedures to be avoided.
The form, developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and The College of Emergency Physicians, can be downloaded here.
Sometimes, educational success begins with accommodating a child’s medical needs. As a parent, you can play a key role in meeting those needs with planning, communication and having the support of your IEP team.
PACER Center is a national training and information center for families of children and youth with all disabilities: Physical, cognitive, learning, emotional, and others.
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Sample Health Care Plan for School
Student: John Doe, Age 12, Grade 7, followed by Dr. Smith
Primary Immune Deficiency: Requires IV medications administered through a central line called a Hickman catheter, located in the jugular on the right side of his neck.
Impact for school: John must avoid all collision sports activities, is susceptible to infections, requires monthly blood draws and periodically needs his dressing changed.
Accommodation: John will have a modified phys-ed schedule, including a private changing area. If an infection is suspected, the school nurse will call John’s mother, allow him to rest in the health room and monitor his temperature, pulse, heart rate and blood pressure. Space will be made available in the health room where a home care nurse can draw blood once a month. The school nurse will store dressing supplies in the health room and will repair or replace John’s dressing as needed.