How to Provide Maximum Support
The level of support that a child with syncope will require in their educational setting will depend upon the specifics of their individual condition. Some will not suffer any episodes in their place of education due to the heightened sense of awareness, thus resistance to shock outside the familiar home environment. However, this is very much dependent upon the triggers, symptoms and side effects specific to the individual case.
All places of education should have a special needs policy, (504 plan), Americans with Disabilities Act.
Carry out a risk assessment for each activity that the individual is to participate in, ensure that you appreciate the actual potential risk but do not exaggerate this.
A risk assessment should be viewed in a positive manner and, rather than lead to restrictions on the individual, should identify the possible risks and the ways in which staff can help the individual to participate. Once these risk areas are identified and highlighted in a care plan, the individual and the staff can heighten their awareness and be prepared to employ the care procedure in the event of a syncopal episode.
It is essential that a care plan be produced for all young people with syncope, even if they are not being formally assessed for a 504 plan. One may have been drawn up by the parent/guardian, but it is a good idea for a member of the staff to go through this and create one if there is not one already in existence. Involving all parties in the process of drawing up a care plan can be an empowering and reassuring experience.
The care plan must be circulated amongst ALL members of staff/caregivers. This includes playground and lunchtime supervisors, teachers, nurses, etc.
They should not however be displayed in places where other students can access them for reasons of sensitivity and confidentiality, unless permission has been given to the contrary.
Sample Care Plans
The Care Plan must be open to frequent review as the needs of the individual with syncope may change.
Blank Care Plans
Possible Needs of a Child with Syncope
- A designated place to rest and recover following an episode. For some, it may not be necessary for them to return home and they may prefer for a cot or comfortable chair to be made available. They can then return to the class whey they feel better.
- A system in place so that the individual is never completely alone.
- A system in place for missed work to be collected/retained/copied so the young person can easily catch up on any missing work.
- Dehydration can trigger syncope so allow individuals with syncope to drink water throughout the day.
- If an individual becomes incontinent during a syncopal episode, arrange for a spare set of clothes to be kept in the building.
The student should not feel isolated or left behind either academically or socially within their learning community. Communication, flexibility, respect and understanding are essential to the ability for the individual to enjoy a positive educational experience.
Young children with a medical condition can be perceived as vulnerable, even if they are not. This can often leave them prey to bullies and teasing. A supportive and understanding environment that does not tolerate such behavior can greatly improve the quality of an individual’s learning experience.