Covid-19 and the associated Long COVID Syndrome have changed our lives in many ways. Things we used to take for granted, such as going to school in person, going to the office for work each day, or going to a crowded movie theater, are no longer a given. In addition, with new variants evading some of our current vaccine protections and mitigation practices no longer required in many places, it seems like it is getting more and more difficult to avoid catching this virus. So, what will this upcoming school year look like? What happens if your child not only falls ill with Covid-19 but cannot seem to shake the symptoms weeks later?
Long COVID Syndrome: A Mass-Disabling Event
Like this article from The Atlantic, many news outlets have discussed Long Covid Syndrome being a mass-disabling event. However, the symptoms of Long Covid Syndrome can range from mild to severe. Also, it can manifest as an invisible disability or one that is not obvious from simply looking at a person.
Long Covid Syndrome can include difficulty concentrating (“brain fog”), extreme fatigue, altered taste and smell, muscle or joint pain, difficulty breathing, chronic fevers, nerve pain or tingling sensations, and even blood clots. Even people with no Covid symptoms when they were infected could end up with Long Covid Syndrome symptoms, usually around four weeks after infection.
Therefore, if your child has Covid, keep an eye out on how they progress in their recovery. Report any unusual symptoms to your child’s pediatrician. Check-in on how they are faring after school starts this fall. Are they exhausted when they return home from school? Are they having trouble concentrating in their classes? Do they not seem to have the stamina to keep up with after-school sports, homework, or other extra-curricular activities?
Should I Wait for a Long COVID Syndrome Diagnosis?
The short answer is no. Under IDEA, a child may be eligible for services if Long Covid Syndrome is making it difficult for children to function academically or if it is limiting any “major life activities.” The first part means they could be eligible for an IEP if district personnel finds the child has “limited strength, vitality, or alertness due to a chronic or acute health problem,” which is affecting their ability to learn. The second part means a child may have health problems like difficulty breathing, concentrating, or being immunocompromised, but it doesn’t interfere with their ability to learn. In that case, they may be eligible for a 504 Plan.
These determinations do not depend on a medical diagnosis but the child’s individual needs. However, if you can eventually get a Long COVID Syndrome medical diagnosis in writing from a doctor, it may help support the case that your child needs help.
However, there are not many post-Covid clinics, let alone pediatric ones. Even pediatricians may not know a lot about Long Covid at this point. There are no tests to diagnose it, and there is a wide range in the severity of symptoms. Therefore, I would not recommend waiting for an official diagnosis, as that could cause your child to struggle through school without needed help. That could cause your child to relapse and perhaps worsen their symptoms.
Keep notes on how often your child experiences symptoms of Long Covid Syndrome and what those symptoms are. Bring any logs and documentation to any meetings you have with the school. Absolutely ask for an evaluation in writing if you see your child is struggling.
What Should I Ask the School?
If your child is evaluated and found to be eligible for services, there are many accommodations you can ask the school for, depending on what your child needs. For example, if severe fatigue is an issue, you can ask for flexible schedules, adjust the workload, and extra time to complete tests and assignments. If brain fog is an issue, you can ask for work to be changed so that students aren’t penalized for having memory problems and eliminate time limits for tests to give students more time to recall information.
This article from The Conversation gives a lot of good ideas for accommodations you can request. Unfortunately, many school districts have abandoned the option of virtual schooling. However, this may be what your child needs. Again, if you have data to back up this request, districts may need to get creative with how to meet this need for your child. If they do not, they risk explaining its rejection on a Prior Written Notice.
The Bottom Line
Covid-19 is not going away. Eventually, it will become something we live with, like influenza. Long Covid Syndrome is real and potentially disabling. Do not hesitate to ask for help in school this year if your child is struggling with Long Covid. Now that you know more about Long Covid Syndrome, you can keep an eye out for it and address it sooner.