Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS) and Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS) are conditions that significantly affect a child’s ability to perform academically and socially in school settings. Understanding the challenges and identifying supportive measures are crucial for ensuring an inclusive and nurturing environment for children diagnosed with these conditions.
Understanding the Challenges:
The symptoms of PANS and PANDAS can vary significantly among children and even from flare to flare in the same child, thus presenting unique challenges for educators and support staff1.
Behavioral and Academic Regression:
Children may exhibit behavioral changes such as increased oppositional defiance, rage, and emotional lability. Academic regression may also occur, manifesting as a decline in handwriting, arithmetic, and reading skills1.
Impaired Concentration and Processing Delays:
Symptoms such as impulsivity, inattention, limited concentration, and processing delays can hinder a child’s ability to keep up with the academic pace of their peers1.
Social Interaction Difficulties:
Children may experience school-related anxiety, separation anxiety, and school refusal which can impede social interactions and participation in school activities1.
Supporting Children with PANS and PANDAS:
Individualized and Flexible Plans:
Schools should create individualized education plans (IEPs) or 504 plans tailored to the specific needs and symptom severity of each child. Due to the changing nature of symptoms and the relapsing and remitting course of PANS, ensure plans are flexible, written with the student’s worst days in mind while hoping for the best days1.
When creating IEPs, it’s essential to correctly classify the child’s condition to ensure they receive adequate support. Other Health Impairment (OHI) is often the condition under which most PANS students qualify for an IEP, although other classifications may be applicable based on the student’s symptoms1.
Regular Communication and Collaboration:
Regular communication and collaboration among school staff, medical professionals, and parents are vital for adjusting support strategies as needed and ensuring the child’s needs are met1.
Educational Training for School Staff:
Schools should seek resources and training to help educators and support staff understand PANS and PANDAS better and know how to effectively support affected children. For instance, ASPIRE provides resources for schools and educators and offers virtual in-services on PANS PANDAS1.
Creating an Inclusive Environment:
Encouraging an inclusive environment, understanding, and empathy among peers can significantly contribute to the emotional and social well-being of children with PANS and PANDAS.
Utilizing Available Resources:
Various resources and toolkits are available for school staff and parents to better understand and navigate the challenges posed by PANS and PANDAS in a school setting. Utilizing these resources can help in creating a supportive educational environment for affected children1.
Navigating the school challenges posed by PANS and PANDAS requires a concerted effort from educators, medical professionals, parents, and the broader school community. By understanding the unique challenges and implementing individualized and supportive strategies, schools can play a significant role in promoting a positive educational experience for children with PANS and PANDAS.