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Study reveals teachers' attitudes about chronically ill children in classroom

3 February, 2004

Teachers have an
overall positive attitude about having children with chronic illnesses
in their classrooms, according to an article in the Archives
of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine
.

Children with chronic
health conditions spend most of their days in the school system,
according to the article. Schools face challenges incorporating children
with
different illnesses into the classroom. However, little is known
about educators' concerns regarding having children with chronic illnesses
in their classrooms.

Dr Ardis Olson, from Dartmouth-Hitchcock
Medical Center
in New Hampshire, and colleagues surveyed 384
school professionals (including 241 classroom teachers) in 23 elementary
schools in the United States about the impact of having a child in
the classroom with one of six chronic health conditions - AIDS,
asthma, congenital heart disease, diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, and
leukaemia. Educators responded to thirteen statements about the potential
academic impact on the child, impact on peers, personal risk or liability,
and extra time and demands for the teacher. The responses were scored
based on the degree of perceived impact for each issue, and the proportion
of teachers with negative perceptions on each issue.

The scores revealed
an overall positive perception by school professionals about having
children with chronic health conditions in the classroom. AIDS and
epilepsy were seen as having the most impact and asthma the least impact.
Extra time and attention, and personal risk or liability were of the
most concern to educators. Fifty-three per cent were concerned about
an emergency occurring with the child in the classroom, and 27 per
cent were concerned about legal liability.

The authors wrote:

"Overall school
professionals have positive attitudes about children with chronic health
conditions in the classroom, but concerns about specific diseases and
issues exist. If parents provide most of the disease information, some
of the educators' concerns voiced in this study may not be addressed.
Health care professionals can help by providing educators with appropriate
information about the risk and functional impact of childhood chronic
health conditions."