Patient EducationNov | 18 | 2013
Living with IBD at School and Abroad
How Can I Prepare My Child for School?
- You do not need to tell every teacher and adult at school that you or your child has IBD, but having one or two staff that know is helpful (such as your child’s primary teacher and school nurse).
- Meet with your child’s teacher at the start of the school year to explain that there may be classes (or days) that are missed for appointments or illness related to IBD. This is a good way to inform them of what is going on.
- Children with IBD should do well in school, but sometimes they will need to miss school due to a “flare” (bad symptoms). Having a 504 plan to prepare for IBD interruptions during school or needing extra time on an exam to use the bathroom may be helpful. Children with IBD are usually eligible for 504 plans through the 2008 amendment to the American Disabilities Act (ADA).
- The first step for a 504 plan is to request an evaluation and then a meeting. This meeting will include both you and members of the school staff. Although there are no “must-include” or “can’t-include” topics in a 504 plan, we have included some possibilities to consider.
What Should Be Part of the School Plan (504)?
- This plan should include easy access to bathrooms. Your child should not have to make a big deal in front of the class to leave to use the bathroom. High school students can often get a permanent bathroom pass. This access may include permission to use a more private bathroom in the nurse’s office or other school location.
- The plan should also include how to deal with time missed from school and missed work, tests, etc.
- You do not need to tell every teacher about IBD, but adults that supervise your child (gym teachers, lunch monitors) should know about the 504 plan so your child does not have to explain each time when (s)he needs to use the bathroom. The plan may include how those people (eg, substitute teachers) are told.
- The plan may include different rules for taking tests. Some people might not be able to sit through a test (including standardized testing) and special modifications/plans may be made.
Does IBD Affect Success in College and Life?
People with IBD go to college, get married, have families and have successful careers. People with IBD have played in the NHL, NFL, been president of the United States, been mayor of Boston, had successful acting careers and been the lead guitarist of Pearl Jam. IBD did not stop them, and it need not stop you or your child from achieving goals in life.
Can People with IBD Safely Go to College?
- IBD should not affect your ability to go to college. When searching for a college, look for a school that meets all of your criteria as a “good school” and not one based simply on having IBD.
- IBD does not prevent people from traveling abroad, but requires extra planning. If you are going far away for college, it may be worthwhile to meet with gastroenterologists in that area. Our program can help set that up for you.
- Ask your gastroenterologist if you would benefit from a private (or semi-private) bathroom. If you are having a flare, you might not want to use the common bathroom with everyone in the dorm. Your gastroenterologist can write a letter to the school to help you use a more private bathroom.
Medications and Travel
- People with IBD can travel, but may require extra planning. Make sure that you have enough medicine for the trip. You might be traveling to a place that does not have easy access to a pharmacy, or some medications might require special ordering or may need to be transported in special ways (refrigerated, etc.).
- If you have recently been on steroids, bring leftover steroids in case you need to restart them if your symptoms start up again. Talk with your gastroenterologist before starting steroids again.
- Locate the closest hospital in case you get sick. That way you won’t need to figure that out if you have a problem. It is always better to be over-prepared.
Traveling to a Foreign Country
If you are traveling to a foreign country, look to see whether you need any additional vaccines for travel. The CDC website will tell you which vaccines you will need. Keep in mind, you might be taking an IBD medicine that prevents you from getting certain vaccines. Talk with your doctor about this and look into this well before your travel date. It is best to plan ahead!
If you have a flare while in the airport, you might not be able to wait in long security lines. Talk to your gastroenterologist about getting a CCFA “I Can’t Wait” card that you can show to TSA personnel when you first get into line. They may need to modify the security screening if there are long lines. You will still need to be screened.
This document is intended to provide health related information so that you may be better informed. It is not a substitute for a doctor's medical advice and should not be relied upon for treatment for specific medical conditions.
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