Medical Conditions In Education
In school, children have the opportunity to learn, grow, and discover, but how does a chronic health condition affect a student’s education? There are many connections between health and education, and sometimes, health problems can complicate students’ learning. In this video, we are going to discuss a variety of chronic health conditions and the impacts they can have in the classroom. Let’s get started!
Students’ academic performance can be affected by a variety of medical diagnoses and health problems. One category of health issues would be physical disabilities, which may complicate some classroom activities. A student can experience difficulties related to how they move, how they stand or sit, how they manipulate objects, how they communicate, or how they eat. They may also experience issues related to the physical learning environment.
For example, students in wheelchairs or without full mobility can have difficulty even getting into the classroom. Students with hearing and sight impairments may be unable to receive information through these senses, while other students can see or hear but have difficulty processing this information. Some examples of physical disabilities are students who are amputees or have cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or multiple sclerosis.
Other health conditions, such as epilepsy, have an impact on cognitive or neurological ability. Epilepsy can affect many aspects of cognitive functioning, including attention span. Some learning disabilities are also linked to epilepsy, as seizures can affect brain development. Other conditions, such as diabetes, are linked to difficulties in areas such as memory, informational processing, attention, and executive functioning.
According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, otherwise known as IDEA, children with disabilities throughout the nation are entitled to a free appropriate public education as well as special education and related services. There are 13 categories that would qualify students for these services. Some of these categories are Specific Learning Disability, Speech and Language Impaired, Autism Spectrum Disorder, or Emotionally Disturbed. Other categories include Other Health Impaired, Visual Impairment, Deafness, Hearing Impaired, Deaf-Blindness, Orthopedic Impairment, or Traumatic Brain Injury. The disabilities in each of these categories vary, but for example, students with the OHI classification have limitations in strength, vitality, and alertness due to acute or chronic health problems that significantly influence their academic performance. It is important to emphasize that if this disability does not cause them significant limitations in the classroom, they cannot qualify for these services, even if a chronic health condition exists.
Under federal law, there are two different plans of action that can be put into place to help meet the intellectual, physical, or medical needs of students. The presence of a specific learning disability, medical condition, physical disability, or need which requires special services are some examples of what might qualify a student for one of these plans. An Individual Education Plan, also known as an IEP, frequently includes modifications which are designed to help the student succeed in the least restrictive environment possible while in grades K-12. School districts may utilize the second kind of plan, called a 504 plan, for those who can learn within a general education environment with accommodations. 504 plans can be used both in K-12 and in college, and ensure equality of education to people with disabilities. While IEP and 504 plans are regulated by federal law, the types of modifications and accommodations included can vary depending on the interpretation of individual states or districts within a state. For example, in some states, 504 plans are mainly utilized to help meet the needs of students with medical conditions such as asthma or diabetes. In other states, 504 plans are mainly used to support students with specific learning disabilities such as dyslexia or dysgraphia, while medical needs are addressed through other means.
Medical conditions can cause problems in the classroom that are not as easily detectable as a learning disability. In addition to causing frequent absences, underlying conditions can also necessitate medications that may impact attention or thinking speed. Medications can affect some children’s sleep and eating patterns, as well as their ability to concentrate during the day. It is also important to note that feelings of anxiety are linked to a number of illnesses, which can affect students’ ability to perform academically, behave in class, or interact socially.
There are a variety of accommodations that can be specifically helpful for students with medical or physical disabilities.
- First, it is important to create an environment which is physically accessible and does not restrict mobility. This not only refers to the physical layout of the classroom but also to the placement of the materials in the classroom. For example, placing wide containers in reachable spaces instead of higher up and thoughtfully considering where visual materials belong are two ways to make the classroom more accessible for all students.
- Assistive technology is another accommodation which can be very valuable for students that struggle with fine motor skills by providing adaptive means for typing or the ability to dictate rather than write.
- Providing extended time for tests, quizzes, or other types of assignments allows individual students to demonstrate what they know, while acknowledging that not all students work or learn at the same pace. This accommodation can be particularly beneficial for students with dyslexia or disorders that affect attention span.
- Another accommodation to consider is providing information in a variety of formats to help make sure students can access the information. Examples of this could include utilizing a digital resource that reads the story out loud as the student is following along with the text, or providing graphics to accompany new information. Sometimes recording the class or securing volunteer notes is helpful for students in case they miss content.
In addition, for students with disabilities like epilepsy or diabetes, it is essential that a seizure or medical action plan is made and is adhered to immediately if an episode should take place at school. The teachers should also be qualified to administer first aid and should assist students in avoiding triggers, such as flashing lights, that have been previously identified in the student’s files. Furthermore, it is important to ensure that records are being kept and the proper documentation stays with the student.
Having the correct support and understanding from the teacher allows a student to achieve amazing things. As special educators, keeping yourself up-to-date on your students’ chronic medical conditions and how they may cause roadblocks in the classroom will allow you to support these students and provide solutions to the functional limitations that are restricting them. This will ultimately result in success for both you and your students.
I hope you have enjoyed this video on medical conditions in education. Thanks for watching, and happy studying!