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Back To School Season: A CF Mother’s perspective

TIPS TO MAKE “BACK TO SCHOOL” A SEAMLESS EXPERIENCE FOR YOU AND YOUR CHILD. 

The beginning of a new school year is fast approaching. For CF families of young children just starting junior kindergarten, this can be both an exciting and challenging time. With some practical consideration, this transition can and will be a smooth one. The first important step is to plan ahead and schedule a meeting with your school’s principal and any teachers your child will have throughout the year.

Next, be prepared to answer any and all questions they might have, and think about what information you want to provide. Bring along some pamphlets, or simply print off some information you find here at cysticfibrosis.ca. Another option is to gather some info from the Cystic Fibrosis Canada blog, or in the blog post about resources for the back-to-school season go over it with your child’s teachers and principal.

Once your child has begun the school year, plan a teaching day for your child’s classmates with his or her teacher, which will allow your child’s classmates to ask questions about CF. Prepare to send home a letter to each of their families explaining CF, and how special consideration and precautions should be taken to avoid anyone who has a cold, and that the spread of viruses can be dangerous to your son or daughter. On the topic of infection control, your child’s teacher(s) may not be able to spray down every surface, but do encourage frequent hand washing for both themselves and the class.

In rare but possible cases, make the school principal aware of cross infection issues in case there is another CF child attending the same school. Special modifications may have to be made to keep the children at a safe distance. Now with that in mind, let’s talk absences. Absences will without a doubt happen from time-to-time for hospital appointments, and admissions. Make sure the teacher is aware ahead of time that your child will probably have more absences, and work together to figure out a plan for missed school work.

Most school boards have a medical plan for students with special medical conditions, see if that might work for you and your child. Most importantly, keep the lines of communication open. Be honest about your expectations from the start. Exchange phone numbers, emails etc with your child’s teachers. You will need to update them from time to time on enzymes, the CF diet, infection control and most likely absences.

A great idea to help your child feel more comfortable with a new routine is to play “school” at home before they start the school year. Teaching them how to take their enzymes, talk about hand hygiene, and what they will expect once they are in school. These little things will help both you and your child feel comfortable and safe in a new school environment, while allowing them to experience kindergarten similarly to other children in their class. Happy planning everyone, we’re about 30 days away!

Melissa Gaudenzi (Mother to a teenager living with CF)

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