As summer vacation comes to an end, your child will be feeling a cluster of emotions – they will be excited to see their friends, but apprehensive about what the school year will bring. If your child is an amputee, more questions and concerns can arise while you begin preparing for the school year. Likewise, if your child is a recent amputee, returning to school will be even more difficult from what you and your child are accustomed to.

It is imperative that you sit down with your child and ask questions about their emotional and physical state. Are they physically ready to go back to school? Are they emotionally ready to see their classmates? Are they comfortable with their body image? Questions like these need to be addressed before their first day of school.

Once your child is comfortable, confident and enthusiastic about returning to school, it will be time to schedule a meeting to speak with the school’s advisor and counselor to go over your child’s new accommodations and needs.

A few points to consider reviewing with the school’s staff are as followed:

  • Amputation history: Inform them how and why your child underwent an amputation, how they are coping, and what steps you are taking with your child’s support team and prosthetist to continue their recovery process.

  • Transitioning: Discuss how the school advisors will welcome your son or daughter while transitioning them with their classmates. How will the teacher maintain control of the classroom when questions arise from other students? Will there be a school counselor available for your child? Does your son/daughter’s teacher have a plan in place to introduce them to the class in a positive and beneficial manner?

  • Medical care: Is the school’s nurse experienced with child amputees? Will they be able to help alleviate pain if your child is feeling discomfort during the day?

  • Assistance: Does the school have an aide who can carry their books to and from class? Are there other routes throughout the school that are more accessible for children with a prosthesis? During bad weather, is there a safe location where your child can be picked up? If taking a school bus, will there be someone to help them get to the bus securely?

After you speak with your child’s school staff and review these points, it’s time to create a plan for your child’s school year. Remember while planning to make it enjoyable; the last thing your child wants is to end their summer fun and go back to school. You can get as creative as you want with your son/daughter during this time.

A powerful tool to help your child cope with a negative experience is to allow them to express themselves in ways they feel comfortable. Children tend to express themselves through drawing, crafting or writing stories. Depending on their age, you can help them create a storybook to show their classmates on the first day of school about how they underwent an amputation; this would allow your child to express what happened and helps them prepare for any questions other children may have.

Children grow quickly. Make an appointment with your child’s prosthetist a few weeks before school starts to verify that their prosthesis fits well and is comfortable before the school year starts. During this time, your prosthetist can go over helpful tips with you and your child for back to school preparation. Remember to be open and ask questions of your prosthetist, especially if they have been with your child at every stage during their rehabilitation.

Throughout the school year, be mindful and remember to advocate for your child. Speak up for them if you feel they are not receiving the care he/she needs. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including work, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.  Remember to include your son/daughter in different clubs and after-school activities. For your child, the school year is about learning and continuing to grow with new experiences.