Your teachers need to know about JIA for many reasons:
• You might find that your joints become stiff or hurt if you are sitting for a long time. If you need to get up to move around, it would be good if your teacher understood why that is important.
• If you miss class due to flares, doctor’s appointments, or because you’re just not feeling well, you will still need a way to get your homework. Also, your teachers will need to know why you are missing class.
• If you find that gym is causing pain in your joints, your gym teacher must know. You can probably do some lower-impact exercises.
• You might not be well enough to do all of your homework, and your teacher can help you prioritise the work and might even assign less written work.
• If your fingers or wrists are sore and it is difficult for you to write, you might need extra time for written tests and exams. Using a laptop for taking notes or typing homework may be important for you.
Besides talking to your teacher about JIA, there are other resources to help you in school. Depending on how much JIA affects you, you might need to have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) in place. An IEP is a written plan describing the special education program and/or services that you might need at school. Many young people with JIA have an IEP in place, even if their JIA is not very severe. An IEP is a good way of communicating your needs to the school.
Either your parents or your teacher can request that an IEP be written for you. The IEP is written with input from your teacher, your school’s principal and resource teacher, you, your parents and any other specialists who help with JIA treatment and management.
The IEP identifies what changes are needed for your grade level and subjects or courses (for example, gym class). It also will outline any accommodations and special education services needed to assist you in your learning. Here are some examples of accommodations that might make it easier for you at school:
• having extra time to complete classroom assignments
• being able to complete tasks or present information in other ways (e.g., through taped answers, demonstrations, dramatisations, role play, taking exams orally)
• being able to record lessons so you can review at a later time, having handouts of notes or getting photocopies of the teacher’s notes
• getting a variety of learning tools, such as special computers to make it easier for you to complete your assignments
• having an extra set of books so you don’t need to carry them to and from school
• being able to have a scribe, which is someone who writes for you when you can’t
• having a key for the elevator if your school has several floors.