When Primary Immune Deficiencies Affect Your Student at School

When Primary Immune Deficiencies Affect Your Student at School

Ironically, since the recent posts on Primary Immune Deficiency, we have discovered that our youngest son’s preschool class has a student diagnosed with PID.  Now this is something that effects everyone.  Should I be on the fence of whether my son is ‘possibly’ coming down with something or is just tired and cranky, I am asked to keep my child home.  Could you imagine how much school he will miss?  On the other hand, should my son actually be coming down with something, it could be a matter of life and death for this other child.

There’s a fine balance between advocating for your child and not being able to see the point of view of another’s advocation for their child.  I decided to ask myself how I would feel if a family or set of families refused to understand my son, our family issues, etc, and instead chose to persecute us for our differences.  I didn’t like that thought (obviously).  My solution?  Ask the one person I know very well who has two children with Primary Immune Deficiencies a few questions.  While she currently has alternative education for her children because of the difficulties of managing PI in the public school setting, she still had valuable information to pass along.

This is my short interview of Jennifer Butler, a contributor here on Special Happens.


1)  What do you do when you receive notice that your child’s classmate is immune compromised?

First remember that most immune deficiencies aren’t contagious (none of the primary ones are) and even the ones that are contagious usually require exchange of body fluid in one manner or another.  Unless your preschooler has health issues, I wouldn’t worry too much about them health wise.

2)  Under what conditions is it best to keep your child home from school?

This one is tough.  Chances are the immune compromised parents are new to all of this and what they will eventually have to recognize is that school is a germy nasty place particularly for kids who are at-risk health wise.  If anyone has a fever, open sores, anything deemed highly contagious like the flu, vomiting, diarrhea, etc. they should stay home.  Even this won’t necessarily protect the child because students around him/her may be disease/virus/bacteria carriers and not actively have symptoms or have manifested symptoms yet but it is a good start. 

IDF Cover3)  What can your child’s classroom teacher / school do to best keep the immune compromised child safe?

I’m attaching a couple of pdfs that are for the school environment and can be modified as needed. Encourage handwashing, mouth and nose covering, proper tissue disposal, etc. In room hand sanitizer is effective, something like lysol wipes are a quick and easy way to keep tables and chairs (and toys) wiped down throughout the day, a separate set of art supplies/books/materials for the immune compromised child. The school can share reasons for children (no names) or teachers calling in sick. So it is helpful to know if the flu or strep or whatever is going around.

4)  What precautions can parents of the immune compromised child take when sending their child to school?

Have a long conversation with the doctor; see what action plans they want in place. For example, once a certain percentage of C’s classroom is out with the flu, he is automatically pulled out for 2 weeks. Some diseases like chicken pox are an automatic pull from school with even one suspected case. Keep scratches, rashes, etc. covered. 

5)  Other ways to support the child and family?

Ask questions, let them know you aren’t afraid for your kids to be friends with their kid, offer to be a transition buddy (long absences are hard) so that the child has a friend to help them get re-acquainted with the daily routine, cards or pictures when the child is out for an extended absence so they know they haven’t been forgotten.  


Thank you to Jennifer for giving me the quick rundown of what I can do.  Do any of you have children with compromised immune systems, or is there a student in your child’s classroom?  What are your experiences?

More Primary Immune Deficiency information can be found below:

Our Immune System
What is Primary Immune Deficiency
A Family Experience with Primary Immune Deficiency
IDF School Guide Information about Students with Primary Immunodeficiency Diseases


About the Author:

Gina St. Aubin

Gina St. Aubin is a former Victim’s Advocate who now advocates for those with intellectual and physical challenges. Her eldest son is diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, Electrical Status Epilepticus during Sleep / Landau-Kleffner Syndrome (a rare epileptic disorder causing verbal aphasia) and Developmental Delays. In June, 2012, her son also underwent a successful hemispherectomy. Gina is the editor, author and owner of Special Happens, serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the SPD Foundation, and resides in Colorado where she is a mother of 3, wife, blogger, writer and special needs advocate.

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