Why doesn't my sons school take his asthma seriously?

My sons asthma is not fully controlled , he wheezes & coughs at night . The school he attends doesn't seem to take his asthma seriously, my sons triggers are his allergies, eczema , stress, cold damp foggy weather & viral infections. We were advised by the asthma nurse not to my son do PE in this cold weather. So after writing numerous letters explaining why my son can't do cross country and even the doctor sending a letter, they still question why . He had cross country on Tuesday the teacher made him stand outside in the middle of the woods without a coat, the weather has been horrid here. So I complained & no one contacted me, so again today he has cross country & ive sent a letter. What else can I do??? Why aren't they taking this seriously?

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  • I recommend that you make an appointment to see the head of the school and go in to explain things face to face. I would also suggest that you request that the PE teacher be present as well. The problem you may have is that there may be other asthmatic children in that school who can cope with exercise in these conditions and the mistake is being made that all asthmatic children are affected in the same way (which, of course, they are not).

  • Thanks for the reply. the head of year rang, ( you need a golden ticket to see the headmaster at this school) she made excuses for the PE teachers & said my son can sit outside her office.

  • It's so frustrating repeating yourself over n over on the phone & in the letters.. It's not like we don't want him to not PE , we just don't want him getting into a situation where his triggers start.

  • You know I would still are an appointment to see the head and ask to have the PE Teacher and head of your son's year present. It doesn't matter if you cannot head for 2 or 3 months it will be worth it to get this properly sorted out face to face. While you are waiting see your GP and/or asthma nurse and ask them to help you get information together to put before the head. That includes the cases where Schools have been sued and children have died. Actually being able to mention the schools will bring home the seriousness of the matter so that it doesn't get forgotten in future - say when the PE Teacher may be away and a supply teacher doing their job. It would also help - and I know myself from experience both in school and at work that this can be difficult and embarrassing for an asthmatic person to do but make sure your son tells the teacher/s concerned to check with the school office about his not doing these activities . It may also be a good idea if your son had a mobile phone with which he can call you to ask you to call the school if anything happens. Before mobile phones my niece had a pager she would use to get her Mum to call the school.

    Hope you have an uneventful winter with the school and with asthma exacerbations for your son.

    All the best



  • Thank you for your advice, he's been at that school (high school) for 2 yrs now and we feel like we're the bad ones moaning all the time. I'm going to speak to the school nurse also.

  • I did not know that, thank you I'll look into it.

  • That is a good idea.

  • I'm not sure whether it is mandatory or not (I understood it was compulsory, but that may be only from the teaching point of view), but PE is actually useful in other ways than just exercise. Teamwork, for example, and also interacting with his most immediate peer group. This is a difficult one. It depends on how imaginative the school is and what sports they do (which again depends on facilities). Cross country was the real problem cited (difficult for many asthmatics), but he might be able to do gym, volleyball, badminton etc etc.

  • I used to hate PE & games lessons at school mainly because of my asthma. It was a different time but being forced out on biting cold days & made to do cross country remains an horrific memory. Whilst exercise is important for everybody, asthmatics included, that cannot be at the expense of risking his health or even life & the school's response should be proportionate & respect that.

    Personally (& it's just my personal view) I would try to negotiate with them to say that he will try to participate but you want a veto if either he is out of breath, it's very cold, etc. Also if his asthma becomes better controlled you will review it. The school will be reticent to give a blanket exemption but might be more willing to think in terms of some parameters.

    If all else fails, I'd consider going down the Education Authority or Local Councillor route (perhaps even to the Education portfolio holder who you can track down through the council website). Schools don't like too much external attention but if you can get someone like that on your side they are more likely to be able to get access to the Head. That's a last resort as it may fracture your relationship but better that than some of the alternatives.

    Good luck.

  • I was never made to do cross country. Within a couple of weeks of starting at my secondary school I'd had an asthma attack as a result of playing tag in the playground. So the school became aware, very quickly, of what could happen. I did participate in sports, but I was always allowed to have my medication with me, and was allowed to pull out if I was beginning to wheeze.

  • As parent you do not want your son to suffer hardship. However, you are missing the other side of the coin. The experience your son is gaining will give him very useful skills in later life when he is independent of you.

    You learn how to handle emotional issues by being exposed to them. Your son is developing valuable skills.

    The real world is a brutal place. A person who does not know their limitations and how to overcome them with skilful means ends up on the scrapheap. What I am saying is discuss with your son about developing the skills from the opportunities he is being given.

    As an adult with a car which has broken down in the middle of nowhere you cannot turn round and say I have asthma so I must not try and get help.

    Note: Coughing and Wheezing at night is not necessarily an asthma problem. It can be a faulty muscular response problem. Which can be helped by people who are experts in how muscles work. This expertise is not something medical practitioners learn anything about.

  • johnsmith you have a good point, but there needs to be understanding of his asthma and how he can learn to work with it and deal with it from his teachers as well as from his immediate family.

    It is an issue every parent with a child with a potentially serious medical condition goes through, knowing the line between being caring and supportive and being overly protective. I went through it when my younger son was just seven years old. He had a bad spell of asthma one night and I ended up rushing him to hospital at 2.00 in the morning after I was told that it would be quicker to do so as an ambulance wouldn't be able to get to me for about an hour. For those of you who are gasping at that, yes, it did actually happen but we are talking fifteen years ago; hopefully things are better now. Anyway, having been put on a nebuliser he was kept in overnight for observation and then allowed home the following day with a course of prednisolone. I don't know how other children react to oral steroids, but with my younger son they made a usually energetic little boy almost hyperactive! He was fine, no temperature, no infection, perfectly well other than the fact that he had had a bad bout of asthma and was on oral steroids. The question was, was he ready to go back to school. His (very experienced) class teacher of the time had a response that was spot on. This was a condition he was going to have to learn to cope with. If I could ensure that she, and the school, knew what to do if there was a problem with his health it was her opinion that he should return to school. It was a little nerve-wracking for me (and bear in mind I've been asthmatic since I was three years old so I understood the condition) but it was the right decision. Sadly, not all teachers are as experienced and as understanding as that teacher was.

    That teacher's response highlights what should happen in every school. If a child has a medical condition then all members of staff who are likely to come into contact with that child should be made aware of it, understand and respect any limitations that may result from it, but at the same time know how to encourage the child to succeed despite the condition. All of which can be achieved provided there is good communication and a mutual sense of trust and understanding between the child and the teachers, between the teachers and the parents, and of course between the parents and the child.

    And what happened with my younger son in the end? Well, we ensured that every school he went to knew about his condition, what his limitations were and how to deal with it if there was a problem. We also stressed to him that he had to learn to be responsible about his asthma and to not be afraid to let a teacher know if he was having problems with his breathing. I am glad to say that his asthma improved as he got older to the extent that he rarely needs to use an inhaler now (he is now in his early twenties). He (like me) always enjoyed participating in sport and managed to do so throughout his school career (ending up on his senior school's first hockey squad). But all the time, in every training session or every PE lesson, he had his inhalers with him and the teachers kept an eye just in case he decided, in the excitement of a game, to ignore the warning signs that his asthma was beginning to play up.

    Apols for the length of this, but hopefully it may be of some help.

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