Abby when through an open heart surgery last year in Kerala, India. Now she is in school, hoping that this will improve further her social skills.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR YOUR HEART CHILD TO ATTEND PRESCHOOL
Exciting and daunting are among the first words that come to the mind of any parent when they realize that their kid is finally going to a formal school for the first time. You, as a parent, feel excited because you know that it is where your child can meet new friends, learn to be organized and learn to be independent. You feel daunting though because you need to hand over the responsibility of looking after your kid to another person. However, these feelings may be twice the weight for parents whose kids underwent an open heart surgery.
The daunting feeling does not have to sit around and eat you up but, instead, can be a tool to help you prepare for your child with special medical needs to attend school. You can do this by gathering relevant information, seeking advice from health professionals, visiting potential schools in advance and creating a health care plan which includes assessing the educational development of your child.
Below are some tips which can help to prepare your heart child to attend preschool for the first time:
1.Read, Read, Read
As your child steps in on his or her next milestone, you know you should as well get into the next chapter of the book or other resources which aid you to understand your child’s special heart condition especially when your child starts attending school. If you haven’t found the right resources, you can start by asking your child’s cardiologist and other treatment team members which resource you can refer to.
On the internet, you can refer to reputable sites to avoid “information overload”. You can also refer to blogs and forums which talk about the experiences, especially at school, of the children who have a similar condition to your child’s.
Being equipped with the right knowledge will help reduce your anxiety and worry while your child is at school. It will also help you understand the terms used by your child’s treatment team and comply with their recommendation.
2.Request for an advice from treatment team
In addition to home care advice, your child’s cardiologist or treatment team can also help you prepare when your child attends preschool. You may ask them questions like:
Can your child attend preschool this coming school year?
What are the activities your child can and cannot participate in?
What can they suggest to the school for efficient monitoring of your child’s health?
You may request your child’s doctor to issue a letter certifying that your child underwent “open heart surgery” and enlisting the restrictions that the school needs to follow. You may also request the doctor or any member of the treatment team to attend a meeting with the school representatives in order to discuss how to efficiently monitor your child’s health while he or she is inside the school premises.
Your child’s treatment team are the ones who have already helped you monitor your child’s condition. Hence, they understand your child’s condition and can help you list down your child’s medical needs and the precautionary measures to take when your child is at school.
3.Visit and Inquire potential schools
To find the right school for your child, you have to inquire and visit first the potential schools. You may ask the potential school:
If they have experience accommodating a child with special medical needs;
If they follow precautionary measures in case of medical emergency; and
If they can make an assurance that the school staff understands your child’s condition.
Some schools may be frank to tell you that they cannot accommodate your child with special medical needs. Some schools may give you positive but unrealistic response. In such case, you may rely on your instinct in determining whether the school is capable of looking after your child. If your instinct says yes, then you can ask them to assist you in creating a health care plan that they can follow while your child is under their care. Let’s discuss this further in the next number.
This step will allow you to relay to the school in advance that your child will need special medical support from them. There will be no surprises and there will be less chance that your child will be transferred from one school to another especially in the middle of the school year.
4.Create a Healthcare plan
Health care plan should be made with any of your child’s treatment team (i.e. cardiologist, congenital cardiac specialist nurse) and the school representatives (i.e. school principal, teacher, school nurse). This plan should help the school understand the health condition of your child and know the signs and symptoms they need to look out for.
The health care plan should include:
Steps to take when dealing with the mild symptoms;
List of symptoms that need to be escalated immediately to the parents or directly to emergency hotline; and
Assigning a responsible person to monitor the health condition of the child while inside the school premises.
Through health care plan, the school will be well-informed of your child’s condition. It will help reduce their stress and anxiety especially when symptoms occur.
5.Discuss with the teacher your child’s educational development
Teachers should be able to identify whether your child‘s educational development is normal for his or her age and whether there is an area where your child will need special support. Among the particular areas that the teacher will assess are your child’s oral language, written language, and motor functions.
Besides the health care plan, the school should also coordinate with the treatment team regarding the physical activities that your child can participate in. These activities should be the activities that will help your child improve after surgery and, at the same time, will make your child feel not excluded or discriminated.
Hence, you should make sure to always maintain a communication with your child’s teacher. You can point out that while you want them to be aware of your child’s condition, you still want your child to be treated like the other kids as much as possible in order for him or her to experience a normal and happy life at school.
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