Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) Factsheet (for Schools)
What Teachers Should Know
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is a group of disorders that causes arthritis (stiff, swollen, painful joints) in children. The arthritis happens when the immune system, which normally attacks germs, mistakenly attacks the joints. This causes inflammation (swelling and irritation) in the joints and other problems. An illness that happens when the immune system attacks the body's own cells is called an autoimmune illness.
Depending on what type of JIA a child has, the eyes, skin, heart, lungs, and digestive system also can be affected. Some types of JIA are also known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA).
What Teachers Can Do
Most kids and teens with JIA can do many of the same things as other students. Regular exercise, healthy eating, and taking medicines can help with JIA symptoms. Encourage your student to participate in all activities when possible, but modify activities during flare-ups (when symptoms get worse).
Help students with JIA if they need:
- extra time to move from class to class
- extra time to turn in assignments
- rest periods and/or breaks to stretch throughout the day
- specialized seating or adaptive equipment to help with note-taking
- to miss class time and assignments due to flare-ups, doctor's appointments, and therapy
- to leave class to take medicines or see the school nurse
Encourage peers to support classmates with JIA by:
- helping carry their books, backpacks, or other materials
- taking notes or writing down homework assignments
- assisting with moving in hallways
Talk to students with JIA and parents or guardians about:
- which sports and activities are OK. Some, especially contact sports, may be dangerous if the student has weak joints and bones.
- whether a 504 education plan or individualized educational program (IEP) could help
- any signs of depression or anxiety you notice. Watch for signs like crying, not wanting to participate in activities or be with friends, or nervousness.