What You Need to Know About School and Your Child’s Prosthetic Device

Wednesday, 24 July 2019 18:29

You’re a parent: you want the best for your child. It’s just how we are! When your child has a limb difference and uses a prosthetic device, though, you encounter a very different set of challenges than most other parents. While there is no reason your child cannot have a happy life full of adventures and opportunities, it does take adjustment. School can be a source of stress - or a source of support. What do you need to know to set your child up for success? 

On the Same Time: Working with Your Child’s School

Children use prosthetics for a variety of reasons; some have congenital conditions and some have had an amputation following trauma (e.g. a car accident) or illness. Whether your child is starting school for the first time or returning after an amputation, speak to your school administrators as soon as possible. Discuss:

  • The origin of the amputation. You choose how much you want to disclose. If you are comfortable, explain how the amputation occurred. 
  • How your child is coping. This is essential information for school staff: has your child been depressed? Withdrawn? Acting out? Adjusting well? Are they worried about going back to school? Scared?
  • Accommodations. Will your child return or go to school part-time or full-time? What accommodations are necessary to ensure they succeed? For example, do they need extra breaks? Modifications to certain activities? More time to complete certain tasks? Your medical team can help you determine proper accommodations, and you can communicate these to your school. 

Children with limb differences are entitled to a fair and equitable education. To this end, they may be placed on a special plan (e.g. an Individual Education Plan or 504). These are designed to remove barriers to educational opportunities. They are legally binding: staff must provide the accommodations detailed in the plans.

If you are worried about stigma, please know that these plans are confidential. Today, there are a variety of reasons children have individualized plans, and teachers are trained to integrate accommodations into their planning. Your child will not be separated, isolated, or made to feel “different.” 

  • Modifications. On a related note, the school is required to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. If there are specific concerns that you have regarding accessibility, please share them. Schools are much more accessible today than a generation ago, but it’s always important to check in and make sure.
  • Medication. Again, a lot of kids take medication at school for conditions from ADHD to asthma. In other words, it’s not a big deal these days. It’s unlikely that other children will care - or even notice. If your child needs to take medicine during school hours, your school will work with you and your pediatrician to create an action plan. It will describe how, when, and where medication will be administered. Medication will be kept secure in the nurse’s office and distributed as described in the plan. Simple as that. 
  • Emotional Support. As we’ve mentioned, it is not unusual for children to be on individual plans or to take medication at school. As educational methods progress, kids receive differentiated instruction. One may go here for advanced reading, another here for math help, another to PT. Differentiation is becoming ingrained in planning and in schedules. The point is that your child won’t be isolated or singled out when they go to the nurse’s office for medication or out for OT. Everyone’s different! 

At the same time, your child does have unique challenges and may need emotional support to navigate school and social relationships. Children (and adults) can be mean, even if unintentionally. Stares, whispers, comments, and other negative reactions may occur, especially at first. 

Work with the school to ensure they are prepping your child’s classmates. By educating peers, your child can more easily integrate into the classroom. The strongest reaction is likely to be curiosity. If your child is able and comfortable to discuss their prosthetic device and how it works, they can remove a lot of the “mystery.” They’ll just be them

Make sure that there is a counselor or other mental health professional with whom your child can speak, whether on a regular basis or as needed. 

When your child uses a prosthetic device, education is the most potent tool you have to help them adjust. Well, that and unwavering support and love! But teaching them about their prosthetic, preparing them for challenges, and showing them ways to cope, accommodate, and advocate for themselves is critical. Get the school staff on board, and you’ll have a powerful team on your kid’s side.

Yes, school may be difficult. But when you equip your child with information and let them know they have a team, they will adjust. Then the biggest problem will be complaining about homework! Contact Orthopedic Appliance Company for more information about pediatric prosthetics.