To the Teacher of a Student With Scoliosis

I can’t imagine it’s easy being you. In fact, I have no clue how you do your job day-in and day-out. You are stuck all day with 30-plus kids in a tiny room, teaching a curriculum you probably did not write, while juggling the needs of over 60 parents who want to express their opinions about everything. Not to mention the pressure I am sure you get from the administration.

From the stories I hear from the teachers I know, it sounds very challenging. But as a teacher, you have this incredible power to influence the lives of each and every one of your students. You have the ability to listen and understand their needs, and by doing so, you can change the way they feel about the world and the way they feel about themselves. With that said, I thought I’d write this post for you, because I know it’s not easy having 30 students with different needs, especially if you have no idea what to do with some of those needs. Scoliosis can be complicated, so here’s my list of things you should be aware of when dealing with a student who is living with scoliosis:

1. The pain is real and sometimes you just can’t focus. Have you ever tried to pay attention when you were in debilitating pain? It’s so hard, it’s basically impossible. Your mind is trying to focus on the words, but your body feels like it’s slowly falling apart. The more time passes, the harder it is to concentrate, and the more you dwell on the pain. If you see the signs of a spaced-out student with scoliosis, it’s probably time they stand up and stretch. It may help with concentration.

2. Sometimes you just need to stand up, twitch, or walk around. Just like it’s hard to focus, it’s also hard to stay put. The pain isn’t always debilitating, but sometimes it’s just very uncomfortable. I can’t tell you how hard it is to stay put when you are in pain and uncomfortable. All you want to do is stand up, go for a walk or move around, but that’s not always an option. As a teacher, just be aware that your student may not always want to go into the details of what is actually happening. No one wants to tell their teacher their toes are cramping while just sitting there, or their saddle region has fallen asleep. But if your student has scoliosis and won’t stop moving around, it’s probably because they are very uncomfortable or in pain and could probably use a little walk.

3. Sometimes you need to bring a pillow to class. Trust me on this one: no kid actually wants to bring a pillow to class. It is basically equal to ultimate embarrassment for them, and I am sure you understand why. So, if your student with scoliosis says they need to bring a pillow to class, remember to smile and agree. In fact, why not suggest that everyone bring a pillow to class. Those seats are super uncomfortable and I am pretty sure everyone could benefit from a comfy chair.

4. Sometimes P.E. is a little too much, because you body just doesn’t work that way. Don’t get me wrong, physical activity is probably the best thing anyone with scoliosis can do, but there is a but — it’s not always easy to do it. If you are a P.E. teacher and one of your students has scoliosis, just remember that sometimes they may need a break. Scoliosis can affect lung capacity, making it hard to run for extended periods of time, and cause an unevenness in the hips, which makes it hard to do too much physical activity without tripping all over yourself.

5. Sometimes you are super accident prone because your body just doesn’t work that way. Yes, it is adding insult to injury, but as a person with scoliosis, I can tell you it is very common to be super clumsy and accident-prone. If you notice your student falls a lot or is seriously clumsy, it is not intentional. Clumsiness is actually one of the symptoms of moderate to severe scoliosis, and it’s totally normal.

6. Sometimes, you physically cannot bend to pick up your pencil because your body just doesn’t work that way. As a clumsy student who had scoliosis, I dropped everything; my pencil was definitely on the floor at least once a day, sometimes twice. Unfortunately, due to my ginormous spinal deformity, I was not able to pick up my pencil whenever it fell on the right side of my body; the rib deformity was in the way and it just wouldn’t let me bend that way to pick it up. As a teacher, just be aware your student might need to stand up to pick up a pencil they dropped.

7. Sometimes, your body just doesn’t work that way because you’re stuck in a brace. I never wore my brace, because the one time I did try to wear it, I felt so embarrassed that I never had the courage to wear it again. But I do know that wearing a brace is hot and horrible. It doesn’t move with your body, it sucks up all your air, and it squeezes your body in the worst possible way. Now, imagine being a kid and having to rock one every single day — it sucks. Luckily, they have you: their teacher who will try to make their day just a little easier.

I am not a teacher, and I commend you for the work you do and the influence you have on kids’ lives every single year. I hope you find this list useful. If you have any questions or additional thoughts, please comment below.

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