Muscular dystrophy is the name given to a group of conditions characterized by the progressive weakening and wasting of muscles. The symptoms of muscular dystrophy often start appearing in early childhood, so there is a need for schools and educators to be aware of the special needs of children with muscular dystrophy.

Caring for students with muscular dystrophy

Parents and educators should work together to craft an educational plan for children with muscular dystrophy. It is important to take into consideration the tasks generally performed at school, including studying, attending classes, and playing.

A record of the activities that the child takes part in can be maintained in a log that allows for periodic review of activities the child is able to perform with ease and the ones the child finds challenging. Over time, any progress can be a good morale booster for both the child and the parents.

Students with muscular dystrophy are eligible for individualized education programs (IEPs) and 504 plans. While IEPs customize the learning programs according to disability, a 504 plan enables modification of learning in a regular classroom setting to suit the needs of the child and legally ensures that children with disability are treated fairly at school. Both programs involve evaluations and referrals by experts to ensure the educational needs of the child are met.

Accommodation recommendations for schools

Schools need to provide special arrangements to ensure that students with muscular dystrophy are not at a disadvantage. These include offering physical therapy and occupational therapy consultations as needed, reducing the need to carry heavy textbooks, and providing elevator access in multi-story buildings. The classroom should offer priority seating for the student that allows for easy navigation without any obstacles in the student’s path.

It is also important that the school’s emergency evacuation plan considers the physical needs of students with muscular dystrophy and that they are assigned dedicated personnel to help in times of emergency.

School events and field trips should be carefully planned and the scope for using wheelchairs at the destination and on the bus should be considered.

Considerations for teachers

It is important that teachers understand that muscular dystrophy is not a contagious disease and that the child does not pose any health risks to others. Some students might require additional medical equipment such as ventilators, mobility aids, or IV stands to administer fluids and nutrition. Teachers need not be alarmed by this.

Teachers should keep in mind that muscular dystrophy can result in development delays and thus may affect the child’s overall academic performance.

Teachers should encourage active participation in regular class activities while keeping an eye on the child’s comfort. A dedicated student aid from the district could be immensely helpful with writing notes or carrying books.

Support teachers go a long way in ensuring that children with muscular dystrophy are able to perform well academically, much like other students.

A basic understanding of the type of muscular dystrophy the child has and its symptoms will enable teachers to notice whether there are any abnormalities and take immediate action.

Depending on the severity of symptoms, students with muscular dystrophy might have shorter attendance than other students and might not be able to participate in many class tests. It is important that teachers have empathy toward children with muscular dystrophy so that performance expectations in class are realistic and not strenuous for the student.

Additional resources for parents and educators

The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) offers several resources to help parents, schools, and children with muscular dystrophy perform well at school, including continuing liaisons with parents and schools to understand the child’s condition and the required modifications to ensure fair performance in studies.

The MDA also organizes activities such as Hop-A-Thons for elementary school children and a young adult program for educating students about disabilities and what they can do to get the most out of their academic life.

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Muscular Dystrophy News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.