What Teachers Can Do

Potential Accommodations for All Students
There are a variety of potential accommodations that can be employed in a classroom to help students with chronic pain function successfully. Please see several potential accommodations and strategies that you may find useful below.

Environmental Changes
– Provide students with the opportunity to sit in a desk that would allow them to easily get up and go to the washroom or go for a short walk if they begin to experience pain. Students will not likely want to disturb you or your class. It may also be embarrassing for students to have to get up from their desk frequently.

– Identify a safe, quiet space that students can go if they begin to experience pain. This spot should be used prior to students calling home as their pain may dissipate once there.

– Make sure that students are comfortable in their seats. Sitting for an extended period of time in an uncomfortable seat may trigger pain. If the seat appears uncomfortable, try using a blanket or pillow as a cushion. You might also recommend to parents that students purchase a seat cushion.

– Provide students with an extra set of books that they can keep at home.

– If students have trouble managing the stairs, allow them to use the school’s elevator. Try to make sure school staff are aware that the students are allowed to use the elevator so students do not encounter any more challenges in getting to and from class.

Daily Activity Changes

– Give students the permission to go to the washroom without necessarily raising their hand every time. It can be especially embarrassing for students to have to continually raise their hand to go to the washroom.

– Let students go a minute or two late to recess, lunch, or after school. Walking in crowded hallways can elicit fears of being pushed or stepped on by accident. Also allow students to come into the classroom a little early to avoid these same issues.

– On some days, students may not feel capable to participate in physical activities but on other days, this may not be a problem. It is important that you trust students’ judgement and allow them to participate in whatever way they feel able to.

– Encourage students to be as active as they can but remind them to stay within their limits. Only these students will know how much activity is too much for them so let them decide.

– Teach students how to relax their mind and body to reduce pain. See this video for relaxation techniques that you can teach your students. Once they know these strategies, they can use them independently when they begin to feel pain at school. Also, more videoed relaxation strategies can be found here, here and here.

School Reintegration

– If a student is missing frequent periods of time at school, try to identify a fellow student who is willing (and able) to collect work and share notes with the absent student.

– If students are experiencing worry and anxiety around returning after a prolonged absence from school, try slowly progressing through the motions of returning. For instance, students may start by riding the bus to school and attending class for an hour. The next day, students may ride the bus to school and attend class until lunch time. A slow progression toward full attendance tends to work better than overwhelming the student. Try working with parents, the school team, and most importantly the student, to develop an appropriate plan.

 – If students appear overwhelmed while trying to catch up on missed work, try to suggest some extra help (via a tutor or after-school program). Having someone help with the work will likely make it seem much more manageable.

Where can I find more information?
There are very few resources designed to help teachers find appropriate accommodations for students with chronic pain. However, a good source of information regarding potential strategies to improve school functioning for students with chronic pain is the school psychologist. School psychologists are trained to work with teachers requiring specific support strategies for students with a variety of exceptionalities. Another great resource is your local hospital. Most hospitals have healthcare professionals dedicated to community outreach. Those individuals can often put you in touch with experts in the field of pediatric pain who may be able to suggest some accommodations and strategies that this tool did not provide.