Starting at secondary school can be both exciting and a bit nerve wracking. But planning and talking to your new teachers will give you every chance of doing well at school and making friends.
Your secondary school will probably be larger than your old school. It will probably:
- have more pupils
- be on a bigger site
- be on more than one floor.
You might feel a bit nervous about changing schools. Don’t worry or bottle things up – talk to someone you trust if you’re ever feeling like this.
Talk to your teachers
Before you start at a new secondary school, you’ll be able to look around and talk to the teachers.
You can go to open evenings and ask the school if you could arrange an individual visit. You might like to go with your occupational therapist or physiotherapist, as well as your parents, to get their advice.
Your teachers may not have met a young person with arthritis before, and talking to them early on about your condition and how it affects you is a good idea. Good things to tell them would be:
- how arthritis can affect you differently on different days
- if you're affected by pain, stiffness and tiredness
- the effect your medication has on you.
Your parents could arrange a meeting with your new school before you start so they're ready to give you the best possible education. They could ask your school to read our information for teachers to help them understand some of the challenges you might face.
If there’s a lift at the school you might be allowed to use that rather than the stairs. If your arthritis means that you struggle to walk, you might be able to ask that your classes are on the ground floor. It might help if you get a locker on the ground floor as well and if you don’t have to carry books home every day.
If you sometimes have lots of pain in your feet or when walking, you might be allowed to wear comfortable trainers at school if that helps.
You may need a special pass for some of these, which you can show to a teacher if you're asked.
Telling your friends
Some people with arthritis are very happy to talk to friends and classmates about their condition; others are less keen to do so. This decision is entirely up to you. You might find that telling some people about your condition makes you feel better. Good friends should be supportive and understanding.
You have nothing to feel embarrassed about, and many young people have a medical condition.
It’s up to you who you tell about your condition. This might be something that you discuss with your parents and teachers first to help you decide who you might want to tell.
If you want to let your classmates know about your condition you could always ask your teacher to tell the class. Your classmates might be very interested in arthritis and want to ask you questions. Practice some short phrases in case someone asks you a question, for example: “I have arthritis which makes my joints painful sometimes.”
You could also perhaps explain how arthritis doesn't just affect older people.
Although it’s unlikely, if you ever experience any teasing or bullying, it’s the school’s responsibility to make sure this is stopped straight away. If this does ever happen, tell your parents and a teacher.
PE and drama
If your arthritis is active, you may not always be able to do PE and drama if they’re particularly physical lessons.
Talk to your PE and drama teachers about how your arthritis can affect you and how you feel when it's bad. You might be able to still take part but in a less intensive way if your arthritis doesn’t allow you to on some occasions.
Remember it’s good to be fully involved in all parts of school life as much as you can and that exercise is important to you staying fit and healthy.
Missed school days
If you need to have time out of school for hospital appointments or treatment, your school will be able to help by providing work for you at home or in hospital so you don’t fall behind. You should also be able to get text books and other learning materials that will help you.
You should be able to talk to your teacher over the phone or by email to get feedback about your work.
It’s important that you or your parents keep in touch with your school. Good communication is always important, but especially if you need time off school.
Some hospitals run clinics for young people in the late afternoon or evenings. If these are available it can allow you to miss less school for appointments and treatments. Ask about this with the doctors and nurses who look after you. There will be someone in this team whose job it is to talk to your school about how you’re doing.
If you have time off school, you might find it tough to fit back in with your friends and classmates when you go back. If you have to miss days, maybe you can keep in touch with your friends by text, email, Skype or letter. Your friends will be missing you and will want to know how you’re getting on.