Tips for School & District Administrators

The Best Ways to Make Your Classroom Inclusive for Medically Intensive Students

By Brian Gatens

With schools becoming ever more inclusive and legally obliged to accommodate students as much as possible, you shouldn’t be surprised if you’re asked to teach a student with significant medical needs. This could include a child in a wheelchair or one needing one-to-one medical assistance throughout the school day.

As a classroom teacher, you should keep the following in mind when you have the opportunity to work with a child needing special attention:

Meet and review with medical staff/administration

Your principal and medical staff are responsible for fully involving you in the planning for the child’s school experience. Before the child joins your classroom, you should be actively involved in the medical care plan. Make certain that you’re not only given the opportunity to help design the plan, but that you’re also completely comfortable with the expectations set for you. Ask plenty of questions and be certain to get these expectations in writing.

Teachers should follow certain guidelines when working with children who have medical needs Normalize the situation for the other students

Depending upon the physical needs of the child, you may need to spend some time preparing your students. Be certain to request permission from the child’s parent to establish the parameters of what you can share. Another option is to bring in the school nurse to explain the child’s conditions and needs, and to show all your students how to help the child become a member of the class. You’ll find that children, due to their welcoming nature, will very often make the transition seamless.

 Don’t overextend yourself

It is very important that you not only follow the expectation set out in the medical care plan, but that you don’t go beyond your certifications or training. If the child needs specific medical attention (such as medicine administration or comfort during a seizure), be certain that this is part of the reasonable expectations set for you. The minute you begin to administer anything like medical care to a student, you are exposing yourself to liability. That being understood, don’t hesitate to do as much as you can for the child.

Communicate early and often

Be sure to keep the school administration, school nurse and the child’s home caregivers up to date on how things are going. Not all children are a good fit in the general education setting and your feedback using observable data is very important. Share your feedback with others, as it will help the school best address the child’s needs.

Keep the big picture in mind

When working with a medically intensive child, it’s important to remember that your hard work and effort are securing a safe, comfortable and ultimately normal school experience for somebody who truly needs it. Your kindness and professionalism will provide more comfort to the family than you will ever realize. Keep that in mind while dealing with the trials and uncertainties that are bound to crop up as you integrate the child into your class.

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