Taking IBD to School

The ups and downs of life with IBD can affect your loved one’s school attendance and, at times, their academic performance. There’s also the possibility that IBD can impact their social life at school, especially if they have to miss certain classes or activities due to not feeling well.

Below you’ll find information about how to navigate accommodations for your student with IBD.

IBD Accommodations at School

Your student is entitled to certain accommodations in public schools and at certain private schools that receive federal funding. The most effective way to do this is to establish a 504 accommodations plan

Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act addresses disparities in education faced by children with physical disabilities and requires their physical needs be met while at school. The standard for determining if a child is disabled is the same as the test under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Having Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis is considered a disability under the ADA.

A 504 plan is a legally binding document that allows your student to have specialized accommodations due to their IBD. This can include everything from unrestricted bathroom access to being allowed take-home exams when they are hospitalized or in a disease flare.

Their accommodations can be negotiated and then put in writing in a 504 plan that will be in effect for the entire school year.

  • Our sample 504 template for students with IBD can help you get started with understanding your loved one’s rights and options for accommodations.

  • Our specialists in the IBD Help Center can help answer any additional questions about 504 plans.

Sample accommodations include:

  • “Stop the clock testing,” which means that the clock stops during an exam when your student goes to the bathroom, and starts again when the student returns.

  • Excuses for absences and lateness due to appointments or not feeling well. 

  • Allowing make-up work and take-home exams if your student is hospitalized because of their IBD or too ill to attend school. 

  • Providing an at-home tutor if your student has to be out of school for a longer stretch of time.

  • Food and beverage accommodations.

  • Allowing breaks throughout the day.

  • Physical education adjustments.

  • Seating considerations in the classroom. 

  • Giving your student an open or unrestricted bathroom pass to use as frequently as they need.

  • Permission to use a private bathroom, such as in the nurses’ office.

  • Access to medications and plan for medications with a school nurse.

  • Allowing a student to keep an extra set of clothing with the school nurse in the event of an accident. 

  • Access to a school counselor for stress or anxiety related to symptoms. 

Talking to Teachers and Staff About IBD

Everyone your student comes in contact with during the school day does not have to know all the details of their illness, but the important details should be shared with their principal, school nurse, teachers, coaches, and counselors so that they know when and how to help them if needed.

Discuss with your loved one and their healthcare provider about who else may need to know, such as the school counselor, team coach, or a favorite staff member.

You can also help advocate for your student by requesting a meeting with their education team and discussing what IBD is and how it may affect them at school.

Your conversation with the school should include:

  • How critically necessary it is for them to be able to freely use the bathroom at any time and without delay to avoid unnecessary attention, or worse, humiliating accidents.

  • How to discreetly help them with their IBD care during the day, including taking medication, frequenting the bathroom, and dealing with chronic pain.

  • How symptoms and flares affect your child physically, mentally, and emotionally.

  • How necessary information about their IBD will be communicated with substitutes and other school professionals when needed. 

Our guide for teachers and other school personnel can be a great resource for helping their school learn about IBD and how it affects students.

Helping Them Manage Their IBD at School

Giving your student the tools to begin managing their IBD on their own will set them up for greater success, especially as they grow older.

There are some important aspects of attending school with IBD to remember:

  • Even though they may miss school or activities because of their illness, they are still responsible for completing necessary assignments.

  • It’s up to them to decide whether they want to tell friends about their diagnosis and what details to share.

  • They can still participate in all their favorite activities but may have to take breaks or adjust how they participate to be able to feel well. 

Helpful Resources: