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Juvenile Arthritis at School: 504 Plans, IEPs, and Pain Issues

Learn how special education plans can help children with juvenile arthritis thrive in the classroom.
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Juvenile Arthritis: What to Include in a 504 Plan continued...

Here are some things to consider:

  • To start the process, observe your child's daily struggles and talk to your doctor. See where the pain points are -- both at school and in your child. In Sam's case, because absences were a problem, "we asked for him not to be penalized" for a high number of absences so long as he was mastering his subjects, Williams says.
  • Consider asking for excused tardiness. Because morning swelling and pain are often problems, children with juvenile arthritis often have difficulty in the morning with the simplest of tasks, such as getting out of bed or walking downstairs. Because the child may look and act fine once he or she is at school, teachers sometimes don't understand why the child was tardy. Having a "tardy protection plan" can not only shelter your child from penalties, but it can also take away from stigma associated with the illness.
  • An extra set of textbooks for home can be a boost, Williams and Gewanter say. That way, a child won't have to lug home a set of books every day, which may be very challenging at the end of a school day for a child with juvenile arthritis.
  • Additional bathroom breaks may be needed for students with juvenile arthritis, says Williams, so discuss this with your child and a doctor. The medication that Sam takes irritates his stomach, causing him the need to go to the bathroom often. Having that stipulated in his 504 plan helps decrease worry and embarrassment, Williams says.
  • Consider asking whether your child should be excused from copying from the board. Often, writing can be very painful, even in a child whose case of juvenile arthritis is typically under control. If he or she complains of hand or finger pain because of holding a pencil, you may want to ask for an accommodation for that.
  • Breaks for stretching can be helpful for students with juvenile arthritis. Ask your doctor if this is something you should include. Many schools have strict rules about students needing to stay in their seats throughout the day.
  • Talk to your doctor and your child's PE instructor about physical education needs. While exercise is encouraged for most children with arthritis, it needs to be exercise geared to the child.
  • Talk to your child's teacher, guidance counselor, and principal to get everyone's understanding and backing for your child. While some schools may initially balk at your request just because of the extra time involved, teachers almost always want what is best for their students. Make the process as cooperative as possible.

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