What you need to know
It is important to have HIGH LEARNING EXPECTATIONS for children who have Sickle Cell Disease. Encourage use of the core educational curriculum and modify it in order to meet the individual needs of the child.
Having sickle cell disease alone does not affect learning ability, but the complications of the disease may cause learning problems. Students may require extra help and encouragement when illness interferes with school.
Fatigue due to anemia and sleep disturbances may be present. This can cause memory problems and a lack of concentration. This can limit a child’s ability to focus and pay attention in a classroom setting.
What you can do
Consider an IEP or 504 plan. If a child has learning difficulties, developmental and/or neurocognitive assessments may be appropriate. Some children have attention or other learning problems that appear to be related to stroke, severe anemia, or silent cerebral infarction. Frontal brain injury in SCD is the most common location of injury and can lead to:
- Reduced efficiency in rehearsing verbal information in working memory
- Difficulties with manipulating verbal information in working memory
- Poorer retrieval of verbal information on memory recall trials
- Difficulties with focusing and sustaining attention
- Keeping organized
Keeping up school work is important. Plan for absences so that the child can have work to do away from school. Consider tutoring. Monitor work so that it is challenging, but there are attainable and realistic goals. Communication with parents is important to meet these challenges.
Communication with parents about any change in the child's abilities is important. There may be a need for additional evaluations by the pediatrician or other specialist for any new brain injury.
Individuals with sickle cell disease can participate in school activities and in athletics. However, because of the issues of anemia and fatigue and their sensitivity to dehydration and to cold temperatures, care must be taken to insure their safety.
- Avoid overheating.
- Easy access to water, bathroom, and rest should be available at all times.
- During physical activity, students with sickle cell disease should be encouraged to drink extra amounts of water and other fluids.
- Because anemia is part of the disease, they may fatigue more quickly than other students and may need extra time to recover from activity.
You may want additional information about your child’s disability, early intervention, school services, therapy, local policies, transportation, and much more. Every state in the USA has at least one Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) to offer families just this kind of information. To find your state’s center, go to the Center for Parent Information and Resources.