School & career planning for children with heart disease

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Read about preparing a teenager with congenital heart disease for high school. Guidance counselors and managing work, time and treatment are discussed.

Key points

  • Teenagers with a heart condition may require extra support from their school administration, a tutor, or guidance counsellor as they navigate high school and start planning a career path.

This page outlines how you can support your teenager with a heart condition while they are in school and help them start thinking about prospective careers.

Anticipating possible school problems

Some youth with CHD struggle with schoolwork, either because they missed school due to treatment or because there was some effect on neurological functioning due to the heart condition or its treatment. Stay vigilant on how your child is doing and arrange for tutoring if possible if they are in need of extra support. When selecting a tutor, make certain they have a record of success and use evidence-based or best practice approaches to instruction. Provide lots of encouragement and help your child develop other talents in which they can take pride. It is often recommended that children with CHDs that limit physical activity focus more on activities that provide mental stimulation. Playing a musical instrument, learning games such as bridge or chess, or activities like painting or sculpture can all engage a youth and provide opportunities for personal growth, achievement, and social activity.

Preparing your child for high school

If your child is moving into high school, it would be helpful to alert the administration and teachers to possible special considerations and any expected need for absences related to treatment. The workload will become more intense, which will place greater pressures on your child. This may mean a need for more support, for example additional tutoring, accommodations such as allowing more time to complete assignments or examinations, exemption from gym class, or additional time to move from class to class. The social milieu of high school is also more challenging. Some of the developmental tasks for children of this age include connecting strongly with a peer group, which involves concerns with “fitting in”, and beginning to establish romantic relationships. Encourage them to talk about concerns and together think about possible solutions to any problems that arise.

Career choices

Youth with CHD are advised to start thinking about their career plans earlier than most teenagers. It may help, to get a guidance counsellor involved early to help teenagers identify areas of interests and careers that are feasible, in light of any health or physical activity restrictions. Receiving appropriate advice is associated with a higher likelihood of being employed in those individuals with CHD. Getting career guidance will help in case it takes a little more time or effort to reach milestones, either because of time lost due to treatment or learning challenges. Most individuals with CHD tend to focus on vocations that are not labour intensive. Your child may also like to consider working style and individual preferences like working alone or in groups in order to identify areas of potential job interest.

Last updated: December 14th 2009