Classroom Countdown

Originally published in Kids Get Arthritis Too
By Sara Baxter

Prepare your student for a successful school year – one step at a time

It may still seem as if summer is just a few weeks old, but before you know it, your child will be heading back to school. Kids Get Arthritis Too has spoken to several experts and prepared a timeline of steps to take to help ensure your child has a great school year.

During the Summer

  • Get a peek at the schedule.Ask to see if you can view your child’s schedule and look it over to see if it’s manageable. For example, if physical education (gym) class is scheduled for early mornings, you may want to consider requesting having it changed to afternoons to give your child time to limber up if morning stiffness is a problem.

  • Look into formalized plans.Parents of students with disabilities have two options to make  special accommodations for their children: an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and a 504 plan. An IEP is usually put in place when a child’s disability interferes with his ability to learn and requires specialized instruction. A 504 plan allows  for physical accommodations like obtaining an extra set of books, grouping classes in the same location, being allowed extra time to switch classes, or allowing for absences and late arrivals.

    The first step to get a plan in place is to contact your school’s IEP and 504 coordinator, and discuss  the process. In most cases, you will need to provide  medical information and may even need your health-care team to help with paperwork.

  • Educate the educators.Take a stack of When Your Student Has Arthritis brochures from your local  Arthritis Foundation chapter and “give one to every teacher your child will have throughout the day,” says  Peggy Lotkowictz, director of programs at the Arthritis Foundation’s New Jersey chapter. “Even in elementary school, your child may have several teachers he or she comes into contact with during the day.”

  • Scope the school.If your child is entering a new school, take him or her for a quick tour. For students who will need to change classes throughout the day, get an idea of how close the classrooms are to each other, and where stairs and elevators are located. Knowing how long it will take them to get from place to place can help planning.
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