What it means to be ill

Physical aspects

A pupil may not always be able to attend school, and special transport may be required to travel to and from school. A personalised teaching programme or homeschooling may also be an option.


Pupils suffering from a long-term illness may be unable to follow every school subject, either because they are too tired or because they are absent from school so much. In this case, changes will need to be made to the teaching programme. The pupil may take fewer subjects, may only study the core learning material for each subject or may receive an exemption for tests and project work.


A pupil who is absent from school for a prolonged period of time may need help at home with his or her school work. The school may be able to find people in its network to provide such support.


A pupil who has a fever or a weak immune system and cannot attend school because of the risk of infection may however be able to spend a few hours on school work at home. In this case, an individual teaching programme, homeschooling, a KPN Classmate and contact with the teacher or teachers (for example by email or Skype) may help the pupil.


Pupils who are unable to travel independently to school, for example due to a chronic illness, are entitled to school transport. This is provided free of charge and covers travel to the child’s closest suitable school.

Medical aspects

Chronically ill children sometimes need to take medicine during school time. In some cases, a pupil may require medical treatment during the school day. Parents are increasingly asking schools to administer medicine or medical treatment.


It is up to the school whether or not it chooses to help a pupil with this, but the choice it makes can have a considerable impact on a chronically ill pupil. If the school decides not to allow the administration of medicine and medical treatment at school, it may mean that the pupil needs to move to another school, which is why many schools do choose to allow it. The school should, however, be aware that teachers are only allowed to administer medication or medical treatment under very strict conditions.


Children may attend school with a feeding tube, carrying the tube and the pump with them in a rucksack. They will need access to a room at school where they can change bags if necessary.

Points to note

  • Children can take part in PE with a feeding tube. They can simply disconnect the bag and pump and leave the tube in place.
  • Some children are embarrassed by the fact that everyone can see the tube, and some classmates may find it a bit scary. Talk about this in the classroom, if this is what the pupil wants.
  • Some children who are not allowed to eat and drink find it difficult to stick to the rule. Talk about what he or she should do at difficult times, for example during break time or if other children have brought a treat to school.


Prednisolone is a medicine that is prescribed for many different illnesses. It has numerous side effects, some of which may affect a pupil’s performance at school. These side effects include:

  • a higher susceptibility to infection;
  • an increase in appetite and fluid retention, both of which result in increased weight, a ‘moon’ face and a rounded tummy;
  • nausea;
  • restlessness, irritation and, in some cases, aggressive behaviour and insomnia; mood swings, which can reduce the pupil’s ability to concentrate;
  • changes to the skin, such as increased perspiration and hair growth.

Social aspects


Children who are unable to attend school for a longer period of time often miss out on contact with their friends and classmates. It is important that the pupil knows that he or she is still part of the class, and there are many ways to show this. The teacher, who knows both the pupil and the classmates, can encourage such contact. Contact with friends and classmates is important!


It is important to talk to the pupil’s classmates about the illness, especially if its effects can be seen in the classroom or if they have questions. Being open about the illness can also encourage sympathy amongst classmates and prevent rumours from spreading. Discuss who will tell the class what and how with your pupil and his or her parents.

Social-emotional aspects


The emotional development of a child with medical needs is different from that of other children as the illness can make them scared, impatient, angry or depressed. Other than their friends and classmates, children who are chronically ill are confronted with pain and sadness at an early age. This can have the effect of making the child wise beyond his or her years and less outgoing.

The main difference between the development of a chronically ill child and a healthy child is in his or her emotional development. Of course, certain illnesses may also affect motor and/or language development, but in general the differences are seen in the emotional sphere.


Teachers who have a child with medical needs in their class often need to consider the needs of the child’s siblings too. After all, these children need to take their ill brother or sister into account more often than most other children.


It’s not nice to be ill. In most cases, it involves pain, being frightened and not being able to join in with fun things. However, it can also have its benefits, such as the exclusive attention of your parents, getting presents and being able to spend all day lying on the sofa in the sitting room. These positive aspects can get in the way of recovery or mean that a child pretends that he or she is more ill than he really is.


A school that is confronted with a pupil who is terminally ill and dies from his or her illness is faced with a tough task.

In this uncertain period, school offers the pupil guidance and future prospects, no matter how limited the future may be and is an important part of the world of children and young people. The circumstances often require that the school adapts the content of the education to the needs of the pupil.

At the same time, the school must prepare for the potential loss of the pupil. The sick student, but also classmates, brothers or sisters need guidance in dealing with the loss. It goes without saying that most teachers are not equipped to take on these tasks without the help of others. It is advisable to ask for support from colleagues or external experts.


Mourning is a natural response to a loss. Children who discover that they are going to be limited by a chronic disease go through a period of mourning during which they learn to deal with the new situation and accept their loss. An ESP consultant is able to support school and teacher in this process.

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