For Teachers

Tips to support a child with a chronic illness in the classroom

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Understanding How a Chronic Illness Affects a Student in School

Chronic illness can take many shapes and forms. A student’s illness might cause unexpected absences. It might necessitate long hospitalizations. Or a chronic illness might not be immediately visible, but can affect a student’s behavior, cognitive abilities, or desire to socialize.

In this video, parents, counselors, and students describe the varying effects of chronic illnesses.

Helping a student with a chronic illness do his or her best can feel daunting. But it doesn’t have to. With smart planning and the right information, you can accommodate your student without it interfering with your other work.

A team of adults—parents, doctors, and education case managers—can familiarize you with your student’s particular symptoms, treatment plans, and possible mandated educational accommodations. A first step is to gather information from trusted sources, including the student’s parents, his or her medical team, and your own school. If possible, set up a meeting with the student’s parents before the school year begins to learn more about your student’s chronic illness. A worksheet below offers questions to ask at this meeting.

Another worksheet will help you gather, organize, and keep track of all the information you collect about the student’s chronic illness and how it affects him or her in school. With the right information, you will better understand your role in your student’s academic success and emotional well-being.


Three children with chronic illnesses talk about the challenges of dealing with schoolwork and absences.

Listen to parents describe how their children’s chronic illnesses can mean missing school whether for an afternoon, a few days, or for weeks at a time. Parents detail how tricky it can be for their children to catch up on the schoolwork they missed.

A physician explains some of the ways a chronic illness can affect a student’s ability to learn.

Hear from a school counselor about how anxiety and stress caused by a chronic illness can affect your student’s behavior and relationships at school.


Gather information from the parents

Use the suggestions in this worksheet to ask parents useful questions about their child’s chronic illness.
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How to evaluate information sources

Use this handout to evaluate the quality of the information you gather about chronic illness.
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Gather and organize information

Keep track of all the information you receive about your student’s chronic illness, its effect, and their educational accommodations.
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How a chronic illness affects children in school

This infographic summarizes the potential effects of a chronic illness on a student’s school attendance, ability to learn and participate in school activities, and emotional well-being.
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