Back to School Tips for Caregivers of Youth with IBSPublished on Wednesday, September 28, 2022 by
Back to school is SHOULD be an exciting time of year.
Full of new beginnings and change including weather, teachers, and friends. But for families with youth who suffer from IBS, the uncertainty can be stressful- often exacerbating symptoms.
Boston Children’s Hospital reports that “IBS is the most common cause of recurrent abdominal pain in children, estimating that 10-15% of children have IBS”.
Symptoms vary, ranging from diarrhea to constipation and stomach pain, and many factors influence the development of IBS. Regardless of the cause, IBS can cause pain, discomfort, social isolation, and depression.
One study looked specifically at the experience of adolescents with IBS, their family members, and healthcare providers and found that adolescents with IBS experience isolation from their peers and strain on their family system.
The study found that adolescents often miss school due to symptoms and feel uncomfortable voicing their health needs, concerns and experiences. If your family is affected by IBS please know you are not alone. While there is no cure for IBS, there are back-to-school tips to ease the transition and support adolescent development.
- Join a support group for parents of children with IBS
- Encourage your child to join a support group with peers around the same age
- Encourage your child to stay socially engaged (support extracurricular activities and facilitate time with friends)
- Work with a Registered Dietitian
- Develop a schedule and practice it weeks before starting school
- Ask your physician about medications and holistic treatments (ex. probiotics, gut-directed hypnotherapy, etc.)
Get the 4-1-1 on a 504 Plan
- What is a 504 Plan? Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects disabled people from discrimination. Under this section, educational institutions will draw up a 504 plan to lay out any necessary accommodations and modifications that a student with a disability may need. To qualify, there must be a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.”
- With a 504 Plan, possible accommodations may include:
- Unlimited bathroom breaks
- Access to locked bathrooms (if they are closest to their classrooms)
- School assistance with IBS-related absences, tardiness, or leaving early
How do I find out more?
- Help & Hope for Children with Digestive Disorders has a FAQ sheet on School Accommodations for Pain-Predominant Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders
Maintain Open Lines of Communication
- Work with a family therapist or coach on the best ways to communicate with your child about their chronic condition
- Remember empathetic listening goes a long way
- Train your child to be their own advocate
- Look for resources such as Michigan State University’s Teaching Children to be their Own Self-Advocate
- Identify safe people for your child to talk to during the school day if problems arise (ex. teacher, counselor, friend)
- Donovan, E., Martin, S. R., Lung, K., Evans, S., Seidman, L. C., Cousineau, T. M., Cook, E., & Zeltzer, L. K. (2019). Pediatric Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Perspectives on Pain and Adolescent Social Functioning. Pain medicine (Malden, Mass.), 20(2), 213–222. https://doi.org/10.1093/pm/pny056
Brooke OrrMS, RD