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Study reveals teachers' attitudes about having chronically ill children in the classroom

The JAMA Network Journals

CHICAGO - Teachers have an overall positive attitude about having children with chronic illnesses in their classrooms, according to an article in the January issue of The Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Children with chronic health conditions spend most of their days in the school system, according to the article. Schools face challenges incorporating children with different illnesses into the classroom. However, little is known about educators' concerns regarding having children with chronic illnesses in their classrooms.

Ardis L. Olson, M.D. from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, N.H., and colleagues surveyed 384 school professionals (including 241 classroom teachers) in 23 elementary schools about the impact of having a child in the classroom with one of six chronic health conditions - AIDS, asthma, congenital heart disease, diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, and leukemia. Educators responded to thirteen statements about the potential academic impact on the child, impact on peers, personal risk or liability, and extra time and demands for the teacher. The responses were scored based on the degree of perceived impact for each issue, and the proportion of teachers with negative perceptions on each issue.

The scores revealed an overall positive perception by school professionals about having children with chronic health conditions in the classroom. AIDS and epilepsy were seen as having the most impact and asthma the least impact. Extra time and attention, and personal risk or liability were of the most concern to educators. Fifty-three percent were concerned about an emergency occurring with the child in the classroom, and 27 percent were concerned about legal liability.

"Overall school professionals have positive attitudes about children with chronic health conditions in the classroom, but concerns about specific diseases and issues exist," the authors write. "If parents provide most of the disease information, some of the educators' concerns voiced in this study may not be addressed. Health care professionals can help by providing educators with appropriate information about the risk and functional impact of childhood chronic health conditions," they conclude.


(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004;158:53-58. Available post-embargo at

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