How kids can manage Crohn’s and colitis at school
Back to school – a kid’s perspective.
Danielle Jackson is a high school student that has battled Crohn’s disease since 2012. This summer she underwent an ostomy procedure. In this interview, she talks about the challenges of IBD, talking about her disease with teachers and other students, and how to make the most at school in spite of your health challenges.
How have people at school have reacted to you having Crohn's? What has been hard, and what has your school helped with?
People at school are usually surprised I can take all this and manage it at such a young age, especially my teachers. The whole thing is hard – it is a disease. School has made it easier for me to use the washroom when I need to and to get better grades by giving me extra time on my exams, tests & school work. The worst part is missing out on school trips or parties because I'm off to the doctor, in the hospital, or too sick. My mom always tries to make school a normal activity and pushes me to go every day when possible, even if it’s only for 1 or 2 classes. At least that way I get to see my friends – that helps a lot.
What is your approach to telling people about your disease at school – do you tell friends? Do you tell the whole class? Do you keep it to herself? How do you feel about all this, and what worries you?
I tell anyone that asks or if it is part of a conversation. I don't walk around telling everyone but I definitely don't hide it. My approach is usually putting it in terms they understand, since a lot of kids don't even know what inflammation is. When I was in elementary school it was tougher because I had kids in grade 1 or 2 asking questions. I had a pajama day when I was in grade 8 where kids donated $1 (or whatever they could) and got to wear PJ's to school as a fundraiser for Crohn's and Colitis Canada. I went around to classes and explained to kids and teachers what IBD is, how it isn’t contagious or preventable, and how it has affected my life.
Now that I’m in high school, not everyone knows I have Crohn’s. I missed lots of school in grade 9, but not nearly as much as I did in grade 6, 7 or 8, so most people think I just catch the flu often or I skip a lot of class. I had my colectomy surgery over the summer, so I know there will be more questions now. It is weird, because for so long this has been an invisible disease. Now there is something physical that people can see.
People ask me why I can't eat something or why I can't do something. I'll explain. I don't think keeping it to myself is the best thing because knowledge is great, and the more people know the more aware they'll be for me and for all of us with Crohn's or colitis.
There isn't much I worry about now. My ostomy is giving me my life back, and I'm feeling better than I ever had. I still have some bad days, but nothing like before. It's been a long time since I've felt I can do whatever I want to do. I've been worrying for the last 3 years. It's nice to finally take a break from it all.
I have a pretty outgoing personality, and I'm good at telling friends and family what I need. I don't mind talking about my ups and downs, but I know that can be hard for some kids. I hope by me sharing with other kids in my life they will encounter other Crohnies and remember some of the things I shared so it can make their lives more comfortable.