Awareness of Students with Diverse Learning Needs,
What the Teacher Needs to Know, Volume 1


The majority of children
with these conditions
will be diagnosed
between 10 and 18
years of age.

Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are chronic inflammatory bowel diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. Since at least 20 per cent of those affected will develop one of these forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) before 20 years of age, it is likely that teachers will have a student with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis in their classroom at some time in their career.

The majority of children with these conditions will be diagnosed between 10 and 18 years of age. Boys and girls are equally affected. The majority, 75 per cent of children and adolescents, do not have a family history of either of these conditions. Therefore, when the diagnosis is confirmed, it is often the family's first awareness that these conditions exist. Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are not contagious and are not caused by stress.

Abdominal pain is the most frequent symptom described by children with inflammatory bowel disease. At first, the discomfort may be infrequent and of short duration. As the inflammation progresses, the pain increases in intensity, frequency, and duration. Crohn's disease may affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract. Also known as "Ileitis," Crohn's disease causes an inflammation of the entire thickness of the bowel wall in the areas where it is present. Ulcerative colitis is a disease which affects only the large bowel (colon). Also known simply as "colitis," its extent will vary from child to child. The inflammation is confined to the inner lining of the large bowel. Present medical treatment used for children and adolescents with inflammatory bowel disease needs to be considered as it impacts on the classroom participation of the student. This treatment takes three basic forms: medication, nutritional therapy and surgery. These are described on page 36.

At present, there is no known cause or cure for IBD. With medical treatment and supervision, the young person with IBD may enjoy long periods of good health. Many children and adolescents with chronic conditions attain a sense of maturity and sensitivity far beyond their years. The fact that they have been forced to handle both the normal challenges of growing up as well as their physical care have given them extra doses of self-discipline as well. Through tact, understanding and support, a teacher can help the child to cope with their unique stresses induced by IBD and to develop emotionally, socially and academically to their full potential.


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