It’s hard to be the parent of a school-age child with inflammatory bowel disease. On one hand, you are entirely sympathetic to their abdominal pain, fatigue and bathroom difficulties. But on the other hand, you want to build their resilience and see them succeed in everyday routines like school.
The possibility that kids with IBD might have trouble adjusting to school routines is borne out in a recent study from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
Dr. Wallace V. Crandall, author of a study appearing in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, said in a Nationwide Children’s news release that kids with IBD often internalize their problems. In turn, that leads to difficulties in school brought on by frequent absences, among other issues.
“Both IBD and its treatment have the potential to disrupt school functioning,” said Crandall, director of the Center for Pediatric and Adolescent Inflammatory Bowel Disease at Nationwide Children’s.
“Primary symptoms of IBD include abdominal pain, fatigue and diarrhea. Corticosteroids affect learning and memory, and intravenous medication (requires) hours in an infusion clinic.”
Crandall and his team wanted a picture of school functioning for kids having this chronic illness, which usually appears as either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Both bring about a painful inflammation of the intestinal lining, and Crohn’s disease in particular is often diagnosed when children are in or near their teenage years.
The study gathered data from about 100 children ages 11 to 17, focusing on absences, achievement, grade retention, special education, psychosocial variables and general school-related quality of life.
The psychosocial factor of internalizing one’s medical problems, or constantly being aware of them, significantly predicted absences.
“Youth with IBD are at increased risk for depression, so the finding that internalizing problems are associated with school absence is a particular concern with important implications,” said Dr. Laura M. Mackner, principal investigator for the study.