Have You Considered Health Issues?
In the “ideal world” transition planning should be a part of every Individualized Educational Program in every grade level. Parents with students that have special health needs are constantly trying the balance their child’s health needs and educational needs. In the Individualized Educational Program there is a time that transition planning begins, and this adds another process for the parents to understand. Unfortunately, many times the health issues are not addressed as much as they could be to help plan for transition from the traditional school setting to community based activities.
The IDEA regulation makes it clear that the student is the most important member of the team. Many times the student with special needs have not been as involved in their own health care needs due to the parents doing for their child, the school nurse providing the service, or the student not wanting to do their own care for various reasons including not being able to physically perform. Transition occurs many times for a student that has special health needs, but under the IDEA regulation transition planning occurs officially during the Individualized Educational Program at the age of 14.
Transition planning is designed to help the parent and student connect with the adult service system. This plan should be comprehensive so that it allows movement from school to post secondary activities. It is a time for all members of the team to consider skills and accommodations needed for the student to participate in the five areas of transition: job and job training, community participation, recreation and leisure, home living, and post secondary education/training.
A member of the educational team that is usually not utilized to their fullest potential is the school nurse. The school nurse can assess health issues that need to be addressed during the transition planning. The school nurse can meet with the parents and student to discuss the student’s understanding of their disability/chronic illness. They can discuss with the family how the student would manage their disability, including making appointments, arranging transportation to the doctors, ordering medical supplies, and keeping a record of these supplies. The nurse can help the parents understand their insurance coverage and help them identify adult providers for their student’s disability.
The school nurse can help assess if the student would be responsible for taking their meds, and ordering their medication, understanding of risky behaviours including unprotected sex, drinking, smoking and illegal drugs, and the nurse can also assess the student’s understanding of healthy hygiene, nutrition, exercise and preventive health and dental care.
During this time of transition planning, goals can be written to help the student be as independent as possible to care for or self direct their care on a daily basis. Helping your child gain their independence and self advocate for themselves is essential for all students that have special health needs so they can transition smoothly into adulthood.
Submitted by: Barbara Obst, RN, MS. Kennedy Krieger Institute, Co – Coordinator of the Specialized Health Needs Interagency Collaboration Program (A grant with the Maryland State Department of Education, and Kennedy Krieger Institute).
* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.