School Accommodations Older Students with IBD Need to Succeed
Regardless of age all students should have the right to a quality education which is why accommodations in school are important. In a way it levels the playing field. I wrote previously on accommodations for younger students, and now I'll address the older students:
For the Older Student
High school and college is such a transitional time in adolescence. During this stage of life students should be taking over more control of their illness with parental guidance and support. Here are some general tips for a successful school year for the older student.
- 504 Plan: Your 504 plan should carry over with you throughout your time in school but may need adjustment when you get into High School and college. If you do not have a 504 plan yet, get one! Even if you don’t think you’ll need it you should still get one because in case your health does worsen it will be a lot easier if you already have those accommodations in place.
- Be Clear About Your Needs: Learn to communicate to teachers and other school staff about what you need and what accommodations you have. If you are in college it’s a good idea to introduce yourself to the teacher before or after the first class so they know your name and face. Tell them a little about yourself and your health and what you might need. Building a good relationship with your teachers can help when you may need something like extra time on an assignment because you were in the hospital or not feeling well.
- Meet with Disability Services: If you are going into college set up a meeting with disability services. Some accommodations to think about are having a car on campus if you need to get infusions or go for appointments, a private bathroom, private dorm room, handicap parking, a dorm with a kitchen, air conditioning, a first floor dorm, priority scheduling for classes that do not start too early, and so on.
- Meet Other Patients: Some campuses have student groups for people with Crohn’s and colitis. Check to see if your campus has a CCSI (Crohn’s & Colitis Student Initiative) group. If not, consider starting one! It’s awesome to have support on campus and connect with others so you feel less isolated.
- Build Good Habits: Take your medication as directed, see your GI regularly, get plenty of rest, etc. You cannot always control your disease but you can do things to help. School is a lot easier when you are in remission compared to having active disease. Don't skip doctors appointments or taking your medications.
- Mental Health: Don't neglect your mental health. One of the biggest challenges for me in school was how severe my Crohn's got and how that turned my world up-side-down. I was experiencing blood loss, urgency, accidents, and went through surgeries. As a result I had anxiety and depression. It is so important to get help for those things while you are also managing your physical health.
- Learn about IBD: The more you know about your own illness the better you will be able to communicate about it with others. It will also help you make good decisions about your care. As you transition into adulthood you are becoming independent and responsible for yourself. That also means being responsible about managing your illness and advocating for yourself. You will be able to do this more effectively if you understand Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
I hope these general tips helped you. Every patient experience is different and depending on the severity of illness your experience may be very different from another patient. I had very severe disease during school and went through surgeries and one of the biggest lessons I learned was to not give up on my dreams but also that it's OK to change my dreams and life aspirations to something that was more suitable to my own personal health. Don't be hard on yourself, don't compare yourself to others, and don't fret if school is taking you longer than you had expected.
Good luck and have an awesome year!
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