Going back to school after a SCI takes some preparation. You may be ready to get back to your routine of learning and hanging out with your friends, but you also know that some things will be different.
You will have to learn to navigate the building in your chair, possibly build in extra time in your schedule for bathroom breaks or taking medicines, and figure out how to adapt classes such as physical education. Here is a list of things you and your parents may need to consider before you go back to school.
You need to talk to the school about your new time requirements. Most likely, you will need extra time to travel between classes. To solve this problem, the teachers could agree to you leaving one class early to go to the next one. Or they could agree to you arriving late. Either way, you need to make sure the teachers know what to expect.
Also, you may need to schedule in extra breaks to go to the bathroom or take medications. Going to the bathroom may take you longer than the other students. You may even need to go more frequently. It’s best to set these breaks up at regular times so your teachers can plan their lessons around when you will be present in class.
Lockers And Storage
If your school has lockers, you will need to make sure your locker is one that you can reach and operate comfortably. A locker that is too high or too low can cause injury and inconvenience. Also, you want to make sure you can still open and close the lock easily.
If using a locker no longer works for you, ask about your alternatives. Your teachers may allow you to keep your books and supplies in their classroom. They may also allow you to keep a second set of books at home to use for homework and study purposes.
Desks and Seating
Whether you are at a desk in the classroom or a table in the lunchroom, you will need to make sure you have appropriate seating options. If you need to remain in your chair, desks and tables should be the right size and height for your wheelchair to comfortably roll under and for you to reach the desk surface easily.
Science labs and special projects may be able to be moved to a different surface so that you can reach your supplies. In some cases, you may be able to transfer from your wheelchair to a desk and then back again. For some people, a better option is to attach a workspace desk onto their chair.
If you are planning to start driving yourself to school in a vehicle with hand controls, you will want to ask about reserved parking in the student parking lot. You will also want to make sure there is a proper ramp area that allows you to access the building.
If you are being dropped by someone else, find out where the accessible parking spaces are. Sometimes schools will even have a different entrance for that is more safe and accessible for students in wheelchairs.
Adapting your physical education program needs to be a collaboration between you, your doctor, and your school. Your doctor will tell you what you are physically allowed to do, and when. You can decide what you feel comfortable trying as part of the physical education class. Your school can choose how they are going to adapt their class activities to accommodate what you are allowed to do.
What If New Problems Arise?
Anytime a problem arises at school, or you find that something is a challenge, don’t hesitate to discuss it with your teachers. Their goal is to help you learn while staying healthy and comfortable at your school. Your teachers want you to get the best education possible, and should work with you on whatever details you find you need to adapt.
This post is based on information found in the article, Post SCI: Checklist before going back to school, by Pete Williams.
Author: Annie Beth Donahue is a professional writer with a health and disability focus.