Article image

Parents worry schools can't cope with chronic health issues

Do you trust your school to protect children with chronic health issues? More parents of children with physical or mental health conditions are answering “no,” according to a new report.

Only 38 percent of parents are “very confident” that schools can help a child with a mental disorder or illness, according to the new poll conducted by the University of Michigan. Parents also worry about schools’ ability to respond to chronic health issues like asthma attacks, the poll found.

“Parents feel schools can handle basic first aid, but are less sure about urgent health situations such as an asthma attack, epileptic seizure, or serious allergic reaction,” Sarah Clark, co-director of the poll, said.

The university’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health conducts several surveys each year and collects the results in an annual report to measure public opinion on children’s health.

Parents have the least amount of confidence in schools’ ability to identify and help students with mental health issues like depression, anxiety or learning disorders, the poll found.

“One of the challenges of addressing mental health is that there are so many facets,” Clark said. “At the elementary level, this might include prolonged sadness, anger management problems, or undiagnosed ADHD. For older students, it may be anxiety about college entrance tests, a problem with drug use, or suicidal thoughts.”

In higher grades, school counselors are often seen as the best line of defense for students dealing with learning disorders or mental illness, Clark said. However, at many schools, counselors have varying degrees of training and overwhelming workloads, making it less likely they’ll spot problems.

More than 75 percent of respondents were confident in school nurses’ ability to deal with minor first aid issues like cuts and bruises – but even then, their confidence may be misplaced, the poll found.

Most parents who said schools could handle first aid crises believe school nurses are on-site five days a week. However, less than half of schools in the United States have a full-time, on-site nurse.

Parents who have children with chronic health issues – whether mental or physical – should work with their child’s teachers and school administration to make sure their child is being cared for while at school, the researchers said.

By Kyla Cathey, staff writer

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day