What emotional support can I give to a pupil with arthritis?
Looking out for the emotional effects of arthritis
Growing up with a chronic illness and managing any limitations caused by arthritis can be tough and affect emotional well-being. Young people with arthritis will share the normal anxieties of their peers but may have additional concerns related to their condition and what might happen in the future.
The illness can affect the whole family and schools will need to be aware of the needs of siblings too. A Pastoral Support Plan (PSP) may be useful for some.
Making the most of playtime and breaks
Play and leisure time is an essential part of school life, to develop friendships and peer support. It also allows young people to let off steam and promote positive emotional well-being.
It’s important that young people with arthritis are encouraged and enabled to join in with their classmates during playtimes or breaks.
Exercise is good for arthritis and joining in will help your pupil to avoid feeling different. Sometimes, however, they may find running about or standing around in cold weather difficult, so you might occasionally let them and some of their friends play inside for some or all of break-time.
If it's possible, seats and sheltered areas of the playground would help your pupil and would probably be used by a lot of other children as well.
Deciding whether to tell classmates
Telling people about a chronic illness is a very personal decision. A young person with arthritis needs to be made aware of the potential advantages and disadvantages of telling people, so they can make an informed decision. This can provide young people with a larger support network and greater confidence.
A young person with arthritis may need to be equipped with the skills and confidence to tell people about their condition.
Sometimes children/young people want others such as a local physiotherapist or occupational therapist to come and talk to the school or class about their arthritis.
If your pupil wishes to keep details of their condition to themselves and not tell their classmates, or just tell a selected number of friends, that is a decision that should be respected.
If your pupil has to spend some time out of school because of their condition or treatment, they'll probably find it difficult to reintegrate with their class at first. Sensitive handling of this situation and encouraging classmates to be kind and understanding, without making too much of a fuss, would be really helpful.