Coping With Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
While dealing with any disease can be difficult, there are some things you can do to help minimize the challenges if your child has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Coping suggestions for parents include treating the child as normally as possible and working with the child's teacher to ensure the child receives the proper support to succeed in school. While it may be necessary to limit the child's activities when he or she experiences a flare-up of the disease, most children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis are able to participate in physical activity and sports; exercise is often helpful in limiting symptoms of the disease and in maintaining range of motion in the joints.
When a child has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, it may affect the entire family. The disease often presents special challenges that the family will have to face. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis can strain a child's participation in social and after-school activities and make schoolwork more difficult. But there are strategies that may make dealing with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis a little easier.
Where Do I Start?Some suggestions for parents of a child with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis include the following:
- Treat the child as normally as possible.
- Ensure that the child receives appropriate medical care and follows the doctor's instructions. Many treatment options are available, and because juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is different in each child, what works for one may not work for another. If the medications that the doctor prescribes do not relieve symptoms, or if they cause unpleasant side effects, patients and parents should discuss other choices with their doctor. A person with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis can be more active when symptoms are controlled.
- Encourage exercise and physical therapy for the child. For many young people with the condition, exercise and physical therapy play important roles in managing their symptoms. Parents can arrange for children to participate in activities that the doctor recommends. During symptom-free periods, many doctors suggest playing team sports or doing other activities to help keep the joints strong and flexible, and to provide play time with other children and encourage appropriate social development.
- Work closely with the school to develop a suitable lesson plan for the child and to educate the teacher and the child's classmates about juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Some children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis may be absent from school for prolonged periods and need to have the teacher send assignments home. Things as simple as having an extra set of books or being excused from class a few minutes early to get to the next class on time can be a great help. With proper attention, most children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis progress normally through school.
- Explain to the child that getting juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is nobody's fault. Some children believe that juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is a punishment for something they did.
- Consider joining a support group where you and your child can meet other families coping with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and learn more about the disease.
- Work with therapists or social workers to adapt more easily to the lifestyle changes juvenile rheumatoid arthritis may bring.