School and Migraine: How to talk to teachers

For children with migraine, school can be a particularly difficult experience. Talking to your children's teachers can make a huge difference
teacher standing in front of pupils

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Whether you are a parent or a child, migraine attacks in school can be an extremely difficult experience. It can get even more challenging when you have to explain migraine to school staff. Teachers and school nurses need to understand before they are able to help. Here 4 simple steps to get started with:

  1. Ask the class teacher or school nurse for a one-to-one meeting
  2. Start by telling them what a migraine attack looks like for your child (just share the experiences from their last attack)
  3. If necessary, share some more general facts about migraine and its impact
  4. Give them a clear step-by-step list of how they can help (see below)

What is the best way to explain migraine?

Explaining migraine to a teacher is best done one-on-one and away from the demands of a class. If you can, try to ask for a quiet word with the school personnel with whom you want to chat. It is often best to start with an explanation of the experience of migraine, so when you go on to talk about measures the teacher can take, they have an understanding of what the experience is actually like. We recommend beginning with your child’s personal experience. Before explaining what causes or alleviates migraine, discuss how it makes them feel. Analogies can be a useful way of exploring sensations that may be unfamiliar to the staff member listening. This is especially true for aura, which can be difficult to verbalise for people without an experience of it.

Having explained the experience of migraine to the teacher, it is then essential to lay out how they can help. Sometimes it can be difficult for a child to tell a teacher when symptoms are coming on. Consider telling them some common ‘tells’. This may involve agreeing upon gesture that your child can use to let them know an attack is approaching. From there, explaining what can help, from guiding your child to a darkened room to providing them with pain-killing medication, is important.

With these steps, you can ensure that your child’s school becomes a more inclusive place for children suffering from migraine.

Why take the effort?

If you are a parent of a child with migraine, or a child suffering themselves, you understand how exhausting it can be to explain the condition to other people. Well-meaning but fatiguing responses are common. So too is a patronising tone – something often experienced in schools. However, explaining migraine to teachers is incredibly important.

First, making them aware of the condition can help them to help your child in the event of an attack. Secondly, having a teacher understand the experience of migraine can make school life more broadly a more pleasant experience. It may just be a matter of knowing someone in your class is there for you, or allowing the teacher to be extra vigilant for any unpleasant comments from class members. Finally, taking steps to educate school personnel can have a benefit beyond your child, ensuring that the next child with migraine is in a more welcoming and understanding environment.

You can find further tips on how to manage migraine at school in our Parent Online Course. The video about Migraine & School is available for free.


The American Migraine Foundation

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