Vigilance is routine for parents of children with primary immunodeficiency as school begins. Parents meet with educators to explain PI. They ensure a specialized plan is in place to help with their child’s learning. They request teachers tell them about illnesses in the classroom. Parents take all of these steps – and more – to create the safest environment possible for their kids.
But this school year – faced with a pandemic that shows no signs of slowing – parents must plan more carefully than they ever have before. Mask mandates in schools vary from state to state, children under 12 still don’t have access to an approved COVID-19 vaccine, and the delta variant is gaining strength. As school systems phase out online learning and move to in-person classes, parents feel tremendous stress.
Although the IDF can’t provide education advice for individual families, we can make some general recommendations to navigate back-to-school issues during the pandemic.
First, parents should meet with their healthcare provider to discuss the level of risk to their child in returning to school. Age, health, COVID-19 vaccination status, and PI type are all factors to consider.
Second, parents should familiarize themselves with both the COVID-19 infection rate and the vaccination rate in their state. In addition, parents should know what precautions, such as masks, educators are taking to mitigate COVID-19 infection in schools.
Meanwhile, parents can also continue to advocate for their children by spreading awareness of PI in their schools. IDF has a host of free resources that can be mailed to parents or downloaded from the IDF website, all of which can be shared with educators. A few of them are listed below:
- IDF’s School Guide describes PI and special considerations for the school setting. It also provides guidelines on developing and instituting education plans, managing transitions from grade to grade and school to school, and contains sample letters to request accommodations for a child.
- For specific information related to the current pandemic, please visit IDF’s COVID-19 portal.
- Parents may share with educators the chapter from the IDF Patient & Family Handbook, which pertains to their child’s PI. Each chapter contains information about the diagnosis and treatment of a specific PI and can provide families with tools to enhance the communication process.
- For those looking to share a more basic description of PI, IDF publishes Our Immune System, a book intended for children with PI but which can be used to educate adults as well.
- To find more information about how parents can lay the groundwork for their child’s success in school, visit the IDF Your Child’s School page. To stay up-to-date on COVID-19 topics, register with IDF and tune in to our Forums offered regularly for the PI community. Our next COVID-specific forum will be held on September 16. Register here.
- This month’s issue of IG Living provides a first-person account of the struggle all parents face in sending their children back to school during these unprecedented times. Click here to read the blog.
- Finally, a Conversations on Healthcare podcast by the Community Health Center Inc. provides an interview with Dr. Lee Beers, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Beers discusses the AAP recommendation that children age 2 and older be masked in school and daycare settings amidst the spread of the highly contagious delta variant. She also discusses the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines, and the AAP’s efforts to increase access to mental health services for children and teens. Click here to listen to the podcast.