Secondary education with IBD

My childhood and teenage years were tough. You probably know by now I was diagnosed with Crohn’s at 11 years old with symptoms starting when I was 9 and I just managed to get through primary school without it causing me to have time off. I was diagnosed during the summer holidays before I was due to start a new chapter of my life at secondary school. The initial admission into the hospital where I was diagnosed was two and a half to three months long, so I ended up missing the first few months of year 7. When I eventually started school I found friendship groups had already formed and I was automatically put in the bottom set for everything because the teachers were unaware of my skillset, my timetable had also been adapted to part-time which meant I only attended a couple of lessons at a time.

But first, I’ll talk about hospital school. There is an education facility within the paediatrics department to help children with long admissions keep up with education. I got away with this in my first admission, as we didn’t know what to expect and I presume because of the summer holidays so naturally I had no clue something like this even existed. My following admissions were around the same length as my initial one, and I was in hospital with a flare-up every year more times than I can count. Hospital school is just a small room, with a couple of computers and all the resources you’d need to help you do your work. On the days I had a little more energy I was allowed to work in the school room for an hour.

Of course, the workload isn’t the same as if you were actually at school, it’s a lot lighter and whilst there’s no pressure to get it done straight away, there were elements of ‘homework’. If you’re wondering what type of work you’re given, the teachers at the hospital school actually liaise with your school and teachers to get relevant work so that you’re not missing out or falling behind too much.  You may also be given the odd ad-hoc homework unrelated to actual school work to help you keep focussed – I remember my hospital teacher, John had asked me to write a little bit about myself. He then bought me a journal and that’s where my love of writing began. 

More often than not my treatment didn’t finish in hospital and continued at home after discharge. Because I still wasn’t attending my actual school the hospital arranged for home tutoring for me. Now I can’t remember how often the tutor visited but they were 1-2 hour sessions maybe twice a week. The tutors were always lovely and encouraging. 

Once treatment finished I was eased into school on a part-time basis, the tutor attended with me to start with until I was comfortable and my timetable increased. I slowly increased my time at school until eventually I was able attend full days. But soon after I ended up relapsing and the cycle of hospital education began again. I fell ill at a crucial point of school, year 11 GCSE’s and was in hospital for what seemed like months. My maths GCSE exam was creeping up and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be discharged in time to sit it. Stress is already a big trigger for Crohn’s for me so this situation wasn’t helping my condition at all. It was decided that I wouldn’t be discharged in time and I was to sit my GCSE in hospital in the hospital room under exam conditions.

Secondary school years are supposedly the best years of your life, but for me it was difficult to establish friendships and I had to sacrifice some of my topic choices for GCSE’s. Once I did, I’d almost become naive to my illness and I most certainly wasn’t open about it. It was obvious everyone knew why I missed so much school and was in some ways treated differently by the teachers. I was excused from PE and people loved to be my ‘buddy’ as I had a buddy walk with me from lesson to lesson or from lesson to break 5 minutes early to avoid the crowds. You see people who have formed life-long friendships from school, unfortunately, that isn’t the case for me. Though I have to admit I enjoyed my later years at school and I do have fond memories of my time there. My hard work throughout this time paid off and I achieved good results in my GCSE exams.

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