As a therapist for chronically ill clients, I know all-too-well the stress of returning to school. The anticipated return to school can be overwhelming for chronically ill children and teens, but it can also cause a lot of grief for the parents and loved ones, too. From appointments to meetings and documentation, there are many things to consider and remember. Give yourself some much needed grace by getting ahead of your to-do list.
My suggestion to you is to review this chronic illness checklist and then, print it out. Cross off all the items you have already handled and then start to tackle the ones left over. If you’re behind when you read this, don’t worry. You can do one task a day to catch up and even delegate items on the list to people you trust so it is all handled before school begins.
Here is the chronic illness checklist you can follow so you’re prepared when your child returns to school.
3 Months Before Returning To School
- Schedule all annual and specialist checkups
- Review your child’s current accommodations offered to discuss any updates with your child’s medical provider for the next school year
- Make a list of questions and observation to discuss with your child’s doctor to reduce medical appointment anxiety
- Schedule your own medical follow-up appointment
- Make a list of all upcoming deadlines so you’re not caught “unaware” of a due date for paperwork or meetings you need for the upcoming school year
- Locate all forms you need signed/reviewed or submitted and print everything out so you are prepared for your upcoming doctor’s appointments
- Store printed forms in an easy-to-locate place so you don’t have to search for forms the day of your doctor’s visits
Worried your son or daughter is behaving in ways that are unsupportive of their health? Here are some signs that your child or teen’s behavior could be related to their chronic illness.
2 Months Before Returning To School
- Attend your child’s annual medical follow-ups + bring printouts of all required school paperwork with you so you can easily obtain your doctor’s signature as required
- Confirm additional or updated accommodations needed for the next school year
- Request signed doctor paperwork with up-to-date accommodations and medications to submit to school
- Confirm prescriptions to be administered in school (with doctor form to be signed)
- Submit a copy of your child’s related medical documentation to your child’s school by the deadline
- Schedule 504 Meeting (if needed) to confirm any updates
- Schedule a meeting with the school guidance counselor, nurse or other support staff to help you prepare for the upcoming year (if needed)
- Request to speak with the school nurse to review their medical treatment plan/procedures, as needed for proactive planning
- Order school uniforms or any other school items that take longer for delivery — everything minus school supplies can be ordered 2 months ahead to simplify your life
1 Month Before Returning To School
- Make and save a copy of all medical/school paperwork for your own records
- Review and sign consent forms to permit your child’s medical team and school supports (i.e., OT, PT, Speech) to collaborate with their care, as needed
- Update all emergency contact information in your child’s student file
- Sign up for the school meal plan if you want your child to buy lunch at school + make sure there is available funds in their school account for unexpected incidentals
- Purchase school supplies and any other school necessities so your first day is easy (have supplies delivered to simplify your life)
- Go school shopping for new clothes, shoes, backpack, lunch box or anything else your child will want to feel comfortable their first week of school
2 Weeks Before School Starts
- Review your child’s medical treatment plan with them and practice use of any equipment, if necessary. (i.e., signs you’re having a chronic illness flare-up, how to manage your chronic illness while in class, what to do if you get a stomachache or migraine while in school)
- Keep a list of all your child’s medical team contact information saved in a secure, accessible location (A chronic illness therapist could support the entire family with the stress that comes with managing their health while balancing school).
- Pickup your child’s medical equipment/prescriptions needed for school
Week Your Child Returns To School
- Pack all necessary health/self-care items/school supplies in your child’s backpack
- Review your child’s schedule (before, during and after school hours)
- Confirm teacher contact information
- Review how the school communicates with you so you don’t miss important emails from school/teachers about your child’s progress
- Look out for “back to school night” and “teacher meetings” so you meet your child’s teacher and are aware of upcoming important dates for the fall/winter
Remember, in addition to this chronic illness checklist of things that you need to do, your school communities offer lots of extra help for your child’s social and emotional well-being. If you’re not yet connected to the mental health department at your school, pick up the phone and reach out. Chronic conditions, whether a chronic mental health challenge or a chronic disease are supported by law in most communities. I know that supporting your chronically ill child or teen can be stressful. If you need additional DIY support, here are some ways you can cope with it all.
Next Steps for Chronic Illness Support
I’m Alicia Dorn – a Chronic Illness Therapist. I help teens, adults and their families manage the emotional toll that living with a chronic illness can bring during the school year. Therapy is a powerful tool that can help your child cope with their chronic illness in a safe space.
Although the journey with a chronic illness is hard, therapy can make it more bearable for the entire family. Everyone can learn skills helping to increase your confidence and relieve your stress. You can schedule your first appointment with me by booking a free 15-minute consultation call.