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Pediatric Amputee Support: Back to School

March 25, 2019 , , , ,

Reacclimating to School Post-Amputation: Your Role as a Parent

Following a pediatric amputation or surgery, it’s perfectly natural for children to feel a wide range of emotions, spanning the gauntlet from confusion to depression to excitement. Fortunately, these emotions almost always even out over time, and there are plenty of ways you can help your child cope with them as he or she adjusts.

 Man in black shirt carrying his daughter

In fact, helping your child address his or her emotions is one of the most meaningful things you can do as a parent, especially as he or she transitions back into a school setting. With this pediatric amputee support guide, you’ll find all the info you need to help your child down the path towards a happy, healthy recovery.

Talking With Your Child

First thing’s first: make sure you always keep an open line of communication. This means speaking openly with your child and not just to your child. By maintaining consistent communication and providing your son or daughter with a constant source of comfort to confide in, he or she will feel a lot more comfortable talking about any worries or concerns about going back to school.

Of course, it’s also normal for children to wonder what their peers might think about them following an amputation or surgery. It’s also quite normal for them to be concerned about catching up with any schoolwork they might have missed during their absence. Providing a reassuring line of communication works wonders for alleviating their fears and helping them readjust. After the initial period of anxiety has subsided, a return to normalcy can prove to be a truly spirit-lifting experience. Just make sure to provide your child with the words needed to explain their difference to curious classmates.

Talking With Your Occupational & Physical Therapists and Physicians

It’s important that you stay in close contact with your child’s occupational and/or physical therapists and physicians. After all, these individuals have been thoroughly trained to work with amputees of all ages before, during, and after their amputations. That being the case, it’s a sure bet that any one of your providers will know exactly what your young one will need when it comes to resuming their regular day-to-day activities, while a physical therapist can provide great insights into how he or she can move about more comfortably whilst performing those activities.

Team of MCOP employees smiling for the camera

In many cases, these therapists will work with children for years, helping them all the way from infancy to college (and sometimes beyond!) to maximize their independence and participation. And, in our professional experience, the recommendations and advice that these therapists can provide will also prove to be a great asset to the school staff as they grow to understand your child’s needs.

Talking With Your Prosthetists

You’ll want to keep your prosthetist in your child amputee support system as well. After all, both you and your child will have likely developed a strong relationship with your prosthetist by this point, especially if you’ve been working together to identify which technologies are best suited to their specific needs.

Keep in mind the fact that – depending on the length of the recovery period – your child may or may not yet have their prosthesis ready before returning to school. If he or she hasn’t received their prosthesis yet, you should feel more than welcome to discuss this with your prosthetist.

Just like an occupational therapist, prosthetists can provide great insight into what to expect when returning to school before receiving a prosthesis, as well as what you can do to better prepare your child, the school staff, and your child’s classmates beforehand to help your child cope not only on a physical level, but an emotional one, as well.

Talking With School Staff

You should always speak with your child’s school’s staff as soon as possible following his or her amputation so the teachers and other individuals working there can be as prepared as possible. Important details to go over include (but are certainly not limited to):

  • General information such as how the amputation occurred, how your child has been coping with it, and any other helpful information related to things like rest periods or breaks that might be required. The Amputee Coalition of America is a great example of an educational resource that represents all ages of people who are adapting to or recovering from amputations.
  • Attendance information; for example, will your child be returning to school full-time or part-time? If it’s part-time, how long until full-time attendance is expected? While you may not know all of these things just yet, whatever information you can provide will be incredibly helpful.
  • School modification needs such as wheelchair-accessible toilets or adjustments that might have to be made regarding staircases (also, take heart in the fact that today’s schools are much more accessible than they were decades ago thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act).
  • Medication management and distribution; for example, will your child need to take his or her pain medication during school hours? If so, what can be done to make the administration of this medicine as smooth as possible? Will you child be able to administer this medicine him/herself, or will a staff member’s aid be required?

While it will be an emotional experience, you’ll likely be surprised by how receptive to your situation the school staff is. After all, these educators have been thoroughly trained to console and care for their students and their students’ parents, too. This makes the entire experience much easier for everyone involved.

Final Thoughts on Supporting Your Child as an Amputee

Through the remainder of the school year, never forget that you, the parent, are your child’s best advocate. That means you should never feel ashamed to speak up for him or her if it’s necessary, and you shouldn’t be afraid to teach your child to do the same for himself or herself. As mentioned before, the Americans with Disabilities Act is not just a privilege, but a right – and that right applies to all areas of life, schools included.

In our experience at MCOP, we’ve found that most parents of amputees are actually quite amazed by the amount of empathy and compassion that strangers are capable of showing. So, even though it may feel like you have a long road ahead, you’ll surely discover that it’s one filled with good intentions from great people, all of whom are there to help you along the path back to normal.

A lower-extremity amputee crossing a creek bed

With today’s advanced prosthetic technologies and an expert prosthetist, OT and PT, and physician, your child will be able to get back to doing whatever it is that they love. Our current and past pediatric prosthetic clients include high school basketball players, paralympic hockey players, and so much more! With your love and support, your child has limitless potential as an amputee to realize their goals to Move Forward.

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