ORLANDO, Fla. — Rheumatology health care professionals should be a source of support and an advocate for their school-aged patients with rheumatoid arthritis to gain occupational services, said Kim Jenkins, MS, OTRI, here at the Rheumatology Nurses Society Annual Conference.
“For your young patients, a lot of the families don’t realize that there is support for their kids at school,” Jenkins said, noting that students can get occupational therapy (OT) services or accommodations in the school setting.
She said she always looks at domains affected by rheumatoid arthritis (RA), such as self-care, school, the social environment and the patient’s emotional well-being.
“You know that every time patients are limited in certain areas of their life, it affects them emotionally,” she said.
A school-aged patient can get OT services or accommodations despite whether they have an Individualized Education Program or a 504 plan. To gain these services, students need documentation from a physician or a nurse practitioner, Jenkins said. Services will be given if a patient has a physical, medical or cognitive condition that interferes with school.
“If you promote school services to your student, and I hope you do, please don’t say it’s the only thing needed,” Jenkins said. “Your patients really need additional services. We are limited in what we can do in the schools.”
Jenkins, who works in a school setting, said she talks to the teachers first, then to the student and then to the parents to determine the challenges. Then, she does her assessment. After that, she develops strategies for the classroom.
Strategies, based on an individual student’s needs, may include the following:
- increased time between classes (leaving class early to avoid crowds);
- an extra set of books at home;
- emailed assignments;
- a scribe for taking notes in class or having notes provided by the teacher (although Jenkins said she prefers not to use this as, “so much learning happens when you are physically doing things”);
- increased time for assignments or tests;
- personal curriculum for gym; and
- computers and typing.
“An OT’s job is to help people do the things that they want and they need to do,” Jenkins said. “We enable people to live life to the fullest.” – by Joan-Marie Stiglich, ELS
Jenkins K. Pediatric and adult occupational therapy. Presented at: Rheumatology Nurses Annual Conference; Aug. 9-12, 2017; Orlando, Fla.
Disclosure: Jenkins reports no relevant financial disclosures.