EDUCATION AND BEYOND
Here we aim to share experiences of the challenges faced in and around education, and transitions beyond school including university and the workplace.
Getting support in school
If your child attends school or college it is important to have a meeting with the school/college as soon as possible to discuss your child's needs. It can be helpful to both school and parents for the school to be aware of the condition and any support or flexibility the student needs.
Try to have one member of staff allocated to you who you can contact and email. It is easier to deal with one person who then informs other staff members. You could establish a primary contact at school such as Pastoral Support teacher, Head of Year, or Form tutor. School may suggest a staff member your child can go to if they are having a really bad day.
Understand the availability of the school nurse or whether any other support can be provided by staff, such as mealtime supervision. The school may be able to offer help with your child's lunch, either with practical support or by providing a quiet area.
A few other examples of help you could request are:
- Extra time to complete homework
- Dropping a few GCSE subjects
- Being allowed to miss assembly if they can't cope with large numbers of people
- Staff being aware of lesson/literature content, e.g. writing about body image, or food tech lessons could be difficult for your child
- Your child may be entitled to extra times in exams. This has to be applied for in advance so ask the school to do this if your child will be taking GCSE's and A Levels.
You may also wish to explore the following:
• Access to educational psychologist - an assessment may be helpful to determine whether there are any co-existing learning difficulties or impacts related to the eating disorder for which school may be able to offer targeted support
• Availability and access to school-based counselling by trained counsellors (available at some schools, either on-site or off-site)
Schools may offer students opportunities to participate in physically challenging activities such Duke of Edinburgh award, or visits to amusement parks with 'extreme' rides. If your child is very underweight, such activities need very careful consideration as to suitability at this time.
Sometimes for medical reasons a child will need to take time away from school, maybe missing a term or more, or may need to repeat a year. Some parents have found that taking away the 'pressure' can help with recovery, and can ultimately lead to better educational outcomes.
Transitions within and beyond school
• There are pros and cons to changing schools, a chance to leave behind a difficult past and to make new friends, or a daunting prospect of change which in itself can be stressful. If considering switching from state school to private, or vice versa, check with your local education authority about the options and longer term consequences of changing school, as a move in years 7-11 out of the state school system may affect access to some state schools in sixth form.
• Primary to secondary school transition – do consider friendships, school size, travel time, and look out for bullying
• Secondary to sixth form transition – an opportunity to change school or move to college, or retake a year
• Sixth form to college / university / work - a time of increasing independence for your child who may move away from home. Your child may need to register with a GP surgery away from home and, if under the care of Mental Health services, it can be useful to try and establish communications between new base and prior services in case of relapse and a need to return home.
For students, the Student Minds website may be helpful: www.studentminds.org.uk
There is also support for people struggling with mental health issues in the workplace, available through the NHS, including 'return to work' schemes.
Photo: Copyright Anna Ross 2014