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Supporting children with health needs

Supporting children with health needs

Managing the physical and emotional needs of your child with a long-term health condition can be challenging, particularly when you’re are managing other Family Monsters too.

Children with common chronic health conditions including diabetes, epilepsy and asthma are twice as likely to suffer from emotional problems especially if their condition affects their brain.

Understanding who to approach and what help is available is often itself a major source of stress for parents. That’s why we have put together the below information and practical tips to help you get the support they need.

The impact of long-term health conditions on children

Children with long-term health conditions often need daily on-going medication and monitoring. Their condition can lead to them being away from school for long periods of time which can result in their learning being delayed.

At school and around other children, a child might feel that their condition makes them different to others and as a result develop anxieties about their condition. They might have fewer opportunities to learn everyday skills and to develop their interests and hobbies.

Individual healthcare plans

All children with a long standing illness are entitled to support in school using an individual healthcare plan. This outlines how their medical needs can be properly supported at school and what other support they require to ensure your child achieves their full potential and enjoys the same opportunities as their peers.

If your child is changing schools and has a new or recently changed diagnosis or is coming back to a school after a long period of absence, you or a health professional will need to inform the school. The Head Teacher or a senior staff member will organise a meeting to discuss your child’s needs and they should identify a member of school staff to provide support to your child.

Your Head Teacher will discuss with you and your child, if they’re old enough, who will see the plan. The plan is confidential and will only be seen by those who need to provide medical or emergency care. This might include the head teacher, the class teacher and support staff. Outside the school the GP or school nurse may also be involved.

The school should have a policy setting out how it supports children with long-term conditions, this should be available on their website or you can ask for a copy. This will set out its general approach to administering medicines, staff training and how staff ensure pupils can take part in PE and school trips. It also sets out transitional arrangements between schools.

Your school nurse or health visitor for younger children can also provide advice, support and liaise between internal and external professionals or School Health Teams.

 Practical tips

  • The GP should always be your first port of call as they will hold your child’s primary health record. It is important to be clear about any worries you may have or describe what’s been happening at home. This can be difficult if you’re not used to doing it. Writing points down beforehand can help.
  • Health appointments can be difficult particularly for older children as the topic of their change of care arises when medical history is discussed. You can help make the appointment go more smoothly by making sure the GP or consultant is aware of their situation in advance.
  • Many health charities provide templates for individual healthcare plans, such as Epilepsy Action and Diabetes UK. These can be helpful for both you and your child’s school in making sure their needs are identified correctly.
  • Schools should have anti-bullying policies in place for all children who are at increased risk of bullying including those with health conditions.
  • Children who have been in care for a while often have neglected teeth and poor dental hygiene. You can find your local NHS dentist by calling 111. Community or specialist dental services offer care to children with challenging behaviour or anxiety who can’t access care from NHS dentists for free until they turn 18.
  • It is understandable that you will be protective of your child but it is important to allow them to live as normal a life as possible. Encourage them to meet children of their own age and be open with them about their difficulties.

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Need more support?

Our free FamilyLine helpline is here to provide a listening ear, answer those particular parenting questions you have or help with guidance around more complex issues. All via telephone, text message or email for free.

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