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When Your Child Goes to School After an Injury.

The following excerpt from Preparation and Communication Between Families and Schools has been reprinted with permission from the author.

Parents suggest that you talk openly and honestly about school. It is important to know what your child wants, expects, worries about or fears from staff and students.

Suggestions for Your Child

* Help your child meet other children with similar experiences. The school, parent teacher associations (PTA), local pediatricians, and other groups such as head injury chapters or spinal cord associations, may be able to introduce you to other children and parents.

* Help your child prepare for questions by planning an explanation about the injury, hospital stay, changes and special needs.

* Explain any planned tests and evaluations at school. Explain what will happen and why.

* Arrange a place and person for your child to check with at the beginning and end of each school day. It might be a teacher, guidance counselor or social worker. Having the same person to ask questions and talk over worries can help avoid problems. It also gives your child a chance to get organized before starting and ending each day by planning ahead. This is especially important because your child may need more time and help to get through the school day than before the injury.

* Ask for an extra set of books at home. This will avoid carrying them for homework if mobility, balance or endurance are limited. It can also help if your child has trouble remembering assignments and organizing work.

* Ask the school about arranging for a student "buddy" for your child. Your child may feel less isolated and anxious if met by another student at the beginning and end of each school day. The social support may be even more important than any physical assistance. This is also a way for other students to know your child better as an individual rather than "the handicapped kid."

Connecting Your Child with Teachers and Classmates

* Involve your child by sending notes or drawings from the hospital or home to the teacher and class.

* Take pictures of your child in the hospital and at home. It is important to ask your child's permission and explain why you are taking pictures and how they will be used. Many parents feel uncomfortable taking the pictures, but found they were helpful. It prepared school staff and classmates for any physical changes. They also found pictures helped remind their child of progress when discouraged.

* Parents have used videotapes as a way for their hospitalized child to say "hello" to classmates, and to explain the injury, new equipment and plans for returning to school.

* Teachers have made a class project of making a videotape of classmates for hospitalized children.

Preparing Classmates and Friends

Friends and classmates are an important part of your child's world. They can ease your child's return to school with help and kindness or make it harder by avoiding, teasing or making fun of your child. Experiences are usually mixed.

Encourage classmates to visit when your child comes home. Several children might visit together. If your child looks or acts differently in any way, or if there are pieces of special equipment (wheelchairs, braces, respirators, monitors), it is important that visiting children be informed beforehand.

Your child also needs to be prepared for reactions of embarrassment, silence, or questions from visitors. Above all, be sure your child feels ready for others to visit and agrees.

You can help by meeting with classmates before your child returns to school. You might talk with the class yourself or together with a teacher, social worker, psychologist or nurse. It is important to begin with a brief explanation of the accident so that children will understand what caused the injury. This will avoid fears among young classmates that they could "catch it." By giving them as much information as you can before your child returns, they will know what to expect. Be honest and stress the positive -- your child's abilities and strengths, but also be clear about any changes and disabilities.

Classmates can also take part in preparations. They can make "Welcome Back" banners and decorations. If your child will be using a wheelchair, they can help make changes in seating arrangements and move classroom supplies so they will be within your child's reach.

Many schools or community groups have puppet programs for younger children to help explain disabilities and special needs. The hospital's social worker or the school's special education director may know if these programs are available in your community.
COPYRIGHT 1992 EP Global Communications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 1992
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