Doreen Tabussi, a registered nurse and nurse coordinator at Hackensack University Medical Center who specializes in pediatric rheumatology, knows firsthand how juvenile arthritis, or JA, can affect children’s performance in school.
“Kids who have arthritis are teased all the time,” she says. “I’ve had kids who’ve had to change school systems because they’d been teased so much by other kids or their gym teachers don’t believe them or their teachers don’t believe in the accommodations they need.”
Tabussi volunteers in a school awareness program sponsored by the New Jersey Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation. At the request of parents, the program sends representatives to schools to where they give a 45-minute presentation about arthritis. The presentation, she says, helps children empathize with classmates who have arthritis and better understand perhaps, why their symptoms may occasionally make them late for school.
To help your kids with JA better cope with their condition, teasing and bullying, Tabussi and others recommend these tips and resources.
Do your homework. Research how to help your child cope with the challenges of their condition. Here are some resources to get you started.
- Raising A Child With Arthritis: A Parent’s Guide By Charlotte Huff (2012, Arthritis Foundation). Consider this your “how to” guide on everything from building your child’s self esteem to helping him or her cope with school bullies. The book also comes with worksheets, charts and a resources list.
- "The Spoon Theory" By Christine Miserandino. While this story is told from the perspective of a girl with lupus, Christine Citera, a youth camp coordinator for the New Jersey Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation, says she and other camp volunteers read this article to campers to help them overcome the difficulties of explaining their chronic illness to friends and classmates.
- Pacer Center’s Kids Against Bullying This website offers online games, contests and videos that teach kids how to address bullying.
- BAM! Check out this site from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for eight solid tips to help your child take a stand against bullies.
Educate. If your child is being teased at school, Tabussi suggests either calling your local Arthritis Foundation office to request a presentation to the class, or asking your child’s teacher to talk to the class about arthritis symptoms. The teacher doesn’t have to single out your child if he or she isn’t up for it, she notes. Here are some resources you can offer your child’s teacher: