As a new school year dawns, many parents scramble to get school supplies. When I was a kid, my mum and I had a hard time preparing for the school year. Not only was it hard to find “the green three-ring binder” or “a sliding bar report cover,” but it was challenging to find “pain-free” supplies. Having grown up with juvenile arthritis, I know firsthand that some school supplies are better than others. So, to help parents and students as they shop for the upcoming year, I’ve compiled a list of the tools that practically got me through school.
If you’re sending your child to high school or college, consider investing in a tablet. Even a small, $50 tablet makes a tremendous difference. Instead of lugging around heavy laptops and textbooks, your child can simply carry around a small tablet — most can fit in a medium purse or bag. They’re particularly helpful if schools require your child to buy textbooks because you can often find e-book versions of textbooks for a fraction of the hardcover’s cost.
Younger children who struggle to carry folders and textbooks, but who are not yet ready for a tablet, can benefit from using a rolling backpack. Rolling backpacks are a great option for children who deal with chronic pain or weakness, according to the American Chiropractic Association. However, make sure to check with your child’s school before the first day, as rolling backpacks may be banned and so their use may require a doctor’s note.
It’s not uncommon for kids with JA to have issues with writing, and big grips for pencils are a great help! There are all kinds — gels, foams, and rubber ones. They’re a fun accessory kids love that helps make taking notes more comfortable. It might be worth picking up a pack, or a few. While some kids prefer firmer, triangular ones, others prefer squishy, rounded ones. It all comes down to preference. The grips are a great way to make writing easier without breaking the bank.
Parents know that it can be a struggle to get a child dressed in the morning. Uniforms can make the process even harder, especially if they include buttoned shirts. Buttoning and zippering tools can help make morning preparations easier. Buttoning tools are particularly helpful, and despite not having severe pain in my hands, I have benefited from them! My mother would often tie a small ribbon on my zippers to make them easier to pull on and off.
Make sure to “test run” any school supplies you buy before the big day. This is especially important for three-ring binders, pencil bags, and anything else that may be tricky to use. I used to want to cry each time I had to open my binder because of the small metal tabs I had to press on. It was only after years of suffering that I found “ergonomic” binders that open more easily and have rubber covering the tabs. And don’t be afraid to replace hard-to-use items, if possible. While buying new school supplies can be a burden, it’s better than suffering from something that’s hard to use for the entire year.
All the children on my block are getting ready to go back to school. I’ve seen them shopping for new supplies with their parents, their faces lighting up at the sight of sparkly pink backpacks and Batman pencils. And I get a kick out of all the college freshmen picking out decor for their new dorms. Back to school shopping is an exciting experience for all kids, and kids with JA are no exception. Keeping their needs and abilities in mind while shopping helps supply them with the tools for success!
Note: Juvenile Arthritis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Juvenile Arthritis News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to juvenile arthritis.