How to Help Your Child Adjust to School After a Crohn's or Ulcerative Colitis Diagnosis


When your child has Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis, a normal school day can be difficult and challenging. Seattle Children’s nurse Teresa Wachs shares how you can advocate for your child.

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Partial Transcript:
0:20 One of the first things you need to do is talk to your child about what they're most concerned about in going to school. Talk to them, and know exactly what they're worried about.

0:32 Second, be prepared. You're going to talk to the school, and let them know what's going on with your child. The things like bringing an extra set of clothes to school, keeping them in the nurse's office or in an extra gym bag in the child's locker. Having a small, discreet air freshener that doesn't have a floral fragrance, that they can keep in their purse or in their locker and use when they're in the bathroom, can help eliminate some embarrassing situations. Keeping wet wipes to help keep them fresh, again in their gym bag or in their locker.

1:10 The more things that you can do to anticipate difficulties the child might have at school, the better experience that they will have. You need to talk to the person that you're most engaged with at the school, whether it's the school's nurse, their teacher, counselor. They will help you navigate the road to get your child a 504 Plan. A 504 Plan is an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act that provides for the needed accommodations that your child should have in place to help assure their success at school ...

2:09 Some of the recommendations we make when we put together those letters for our children include the following. First, make sure that there's a plan for the bathroom. This needs to be put in place right away, so when they go to school they know that they can always have access to the bathroom, that there's not bathrooms that are locked, and that they can quietly slip out of class to go to the bathroom without raising their hand and waiting for a teacher to call on them. It's important that the teacher understand that their urgency to use the bathroom is different than our urgency to go to the bathroom ...

2:55 Second, kids need to have in place a process called "stop the clock testing." Stop the clock testing can be used at any age, including your college exams for SAT and ACT. This is a process where if a timed test is given, that if a child has to leave to go to the bathroom, that the time that they're gone then be added to their time allotted. So, if 50 minutes is allowed for a test, and your child has to go to the bathroom, then 10 minutes or however long they're gone is added to their time, so they have as equal opportunity to be successful on their tests ...

3:44 Many children with inflammatory bowel disease can't eat a full meal at a sitting. In order to get appropriate calories in, they need to be able to have snacks throughout the day. We want the school to understand that it's not only appropriate, but it's encouraged for these children to have healthy snacks and beverages available throughout the day. Ongoing diarrhea can lead to dehydration, and so children need to have water and water bottles throughout the day.

4:19 Morning time is very challenging for people with inflammatory bowel disease. When your body wakes up in the morning, so does your GI tract. And as that GI tract starts to function, you can experience severe cramps, and extended times or extended visits to the bathroom. This can cause even the most well intended child to be late for school in the morning, and they need not be penalized for that. If there's an opportunity to arrange their class schedule so they can have a late arrival, that's the best solution.But if not, the teacher needs to work with you and your child on how to make up or accommodate for those late arrivals.

5:11 Physical education for kids can be especially challenging if you have inflammatory bowel disease. We have to remind the teachers that they can't always tell by looking at your child on the outside how they feel on the inside. We want your child to be able to determine their level of participation in the PE class that day. There should be alternative activities available to them, and these should be without penalty. Also, it should be done discreetly, without calling attention to your child.

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