School is a major part of any child’s life. It’s where they learn about the world, form friendships with their peers, and develop into young adults. Like all children, there may be some challenges along the way – and this may particularly be the case for a child with haemophilia. But remember that with the right information and planning, and the support of others, your child should be able to successfully navigate their way through this important phase of their life.
When your child starts school, it will be important to educate their teachers on how to care for a child with a bleeding disorder, and to ensure that your child receives any additional support or special consideration that may be required. You will also have to think about whether your child wants to tell their friends and classmates about their condition. Your Haemophilia Treatment Centre can help you deal with these issues and, if necessary, a member of the team may be able to visit your child’s school to provide information and guidance to staff. You can also recommend that your child’s teachers read Haemophilia Information for Schools – An Information Kit for Teachers developed by the Haemophilia Foundation Victoria.
Preparing for your child’s first day at school
Teachers sometimes worry about having a student with haemophilia so it might be useful to reassure them that it is unlikely to impact upon their everyday classroom practices. However, they do need to know a few basics, including what to do in the event of an emergency.
Before your child’s first day, you should ensure that you have discussed the following with their teachers:
- Your child’s condition including its severity. This may include providing a letter from your doctor with information explaining the condition and how the risk of bleeding can be minimised.
- Any special provisions that may be needed for your child. This might include what kind of activities they can or cannot participate in or how your child will keep up with their school work if absences from class are necessary. However, it is also important that teachers understand the need to maintain a balance between letting your child be ‘normal’ and being sensitive to their condition. If your child is old enough, they should be able to provide the teacher with guidance about their needs.
- How to recognise a bleed. Your child will probably be able to recognise when a bleed is occurring by this stage, which should be reassuring to their teachers.
- What to do if a bleed occurs. Reassure your child’s teachers that although the bleeding will not stop without treatment, a bleed is not generally considered a medical emergency. They will not be expected to administer an infusion if a bleed does occur, but should contact you immediately, while ensuring that your child is as comfortable as possible.
- Who to contact if there are any issues. This should include what to do if you are not contactable, for example, you might like to provide contact details for your child’s Haemophilia Treatment Centre.
- What to do in an emergency. While emergencies are rare, your child’s teachers should know what to do in these situations. Firstly they should understand what constitutes an emergency including:
- Any head injury
- Major injuries such as broken bones and severe cuts
- Bleeding in the nose/throat cavity (minor nose bleeds are not usually a problem)
- Any sudden, severe pain, such as headache or abdominal pain
- Difficulty breathing
If in doubt whether a situation constitutes an emergency, teachers should be advised to contact you promptly for advice.
Explain to teachers that the procedure in an emergency is as follows:
- Administer first aid. Ensure that they have been given information in advance explaining what this should (and should not) include.
- Call an ambulance (if necessary).
- Contact yourself or, if you are not available, your child’s Haemophilia Treatment Centre.
Successful integration of children with haemophilia into the school community is extremely important. While it’s natural to want to protect your child as much as possible, especially when they are very young, letting them find their own boundaries (within reasonable limits of course!) is essential for building self-esteem. It’s also important to remember that although your child has a rare condition, you are not alone. There are many families in Australia, just like yours, who are dealing with the effects of haemophilia. You might like to ask your Haemophilia Treatment Centre whether they can put you in contact with other people in your local area who are going through similar experiences.