Parents and Family

Life at School with a chronic condition

The NHS Research and Development Programme funded a two-year study to investigate the support needs of young people with special health needs attending mainstream schools. They consulted young people, their parents and teachers. I don’t know whether young people with diabetes are classed as having a ‘chronic physical condition’ but the results of the study certainly apply to them. It showed that:

  • Young people were making active efforts to manage their own condition in school.
  • They felt they needed support from health and education professionals in dealing with absence from school, including keeping up with school work.
  • They also felt they needed support for joining in school activities, relationships with other pupils and having someone to talk to about health-related worries.
  • Young people and parents said that support from teachers was variable, depending on the teacher’s awareness and understanding of the child’s condition.
  • Teachers felt their need for health information was largely unmet and they did not want to rely solely on parents or school doctors for advice and information.
  • Teachers urged the child’s health professional to make contact on a regular basis.
  • All participants in the study expressed concern about systems in the education services for passing information between and within schools.  

All these issues can apply to children and young people with diabetes. I think the teachers have probably hit the nail in the head when they say that they would like direct and regular contact with the child’s healthcare professional.

But one has to ask just how realistic this is in terms of time, effort and cost. I am sure that the effort would be worthwhile, especially, for instance, during the teenage years when both parents and the young people themselves are going through a difficult time. There may be behavioural problems related to having to conform to the diabetes regime and when parent / child communications may be difficult. The time has to be given by teachers as well as health professionals, and having had experiences of trying to organise meetings for teachers about diabetes in children, I have to say that these were often poorly attended because they were in after school time. 

If this problem for children with chronic conditions is going to be tackled, then there has to be real commitment on the part of everyone concerned. It has always seemed to me that the organisations representing children and young people with the various conditions should get together and work with the education system to find a way to answer the needs of the children and young people, the parents and the teachers. It is not simply a matter of producing information sheets that never get read or passed on to the relevant teachers.