This article prepares you for some of the teaching challenges involved when you have a student diagnosed with mild osteogenesis imperfecta (OI). Learn how to prepare your student's classmates. Plan to handle episodes if they occur within your classroom setting.
An Introductory Talk With the Entire Class
Other children in your class will be naturally curious and most likely will want to do what they can to help and support your student. It can be helpful to initiate a conversation with students, the student with OI, parents or caregivers and any other relevant staff. This conversation can involve the student directly, if they wish, or may occur when they are not present depending upon their preference. Topics to cover might include:
- What mild osteogenesis imperfecta is and how it affects the student in particular, as well as how it is different to other types of OI.
- What students can expect during the year.
- What a fracture looks like and what happens when a bone fractures (for younger children it could be useful to show a cast or splint).
- How to play with the student.
- What activities are OK.
- What activities are not OK.
- What to do if they are worried about something to do with the student.
- Who they can ask for help or advice.
- Why the student might not always be at school or why they may not join in all the activities.
- Ways they can be a good friend.
Obviously you will need to tailor the talk to the level of your students and the requests made by the family. Older students may require more information, and younger students may tend to ask more direct and challenging questions with often frank and up-front honesty. Remember to positively reinforce the prosocial behaviors you want in your students.
As a teacher, remember the student with OI may have extended absences from school, or may have periods where they are in pain or receiving therapy or medical input and so may not be able to fully focus on their classwork. Prepare for this in advance, and prioritize the learning so materials can be easily transferred to another setting and parents or other staff briefed on where the student is up to. This will help them ease back into the class routine when they are able to.
Be prepared for a fracture occurring at school, and ensure that other students are aware that if a fracture happens it is not anyone's fault - it is something that happens from time to time with students who have OI. Some young people could feel quite devastated that something they have done may have caused a fracture in another person, and they may need to be supported and counseled through this situation if it happens. Plan ahead as a school so that you can quickly and easily put an emergency plan into place to deal with a fracture at school. This will minimize distress to the student with OI and other students and will ensure the student can be transferred easily and comfortably to medical care.
Remember that students with mild osteogenesis imperfecta may not always be diagnosed, and that the way their condition presents may be quite different from another student with the same type of OI. Don't be afraid to seek out further information about OI when you need it.