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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 6, 2004

Clay Book Helps K-12 Educators Help Chronically Ill Students

How to help K-12 educators make sure chronically ill students don't just fit in to the classroom, but thrive there, is the subject of a new book by University of Iowa counseling psychology professor and licensed psychologist Daniel L. Clay.

Published by Guilford Publications, "Helping Schoolchildren with Chronic Health Conditions: A Practical Guide" provides educators and school psychologists with a wide range of tools for providing a welcoming and productive learning environment to the estimated 10 to 15 percent of students who experience chronic, significant health problems. Those problems include everything from cancer and diabetes to asthma and AIDS.

The book provides multiple checklists, handouts, and intervention strategies in a format readily available for distribution to teachers and parents. The book also explains in clear language some of the more common chronic childhood ailments, including possible side effects of medications and other treatments, and discusses options for meeting federal rules under the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Act.

Clay, who wrote the book during a developmental leave taken while on an appointment to the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, said schools are terribly under-funded, and he saw his book as a way to make it easier for them to accommodate students with severe health problems.

"The goal is to keep these kids in schools and in regular routines," Clay said. "Not just for educational reasons but for social reasons as well."

Classroom teachers will find the book especially helpful, as it provides suggestions for dealing sensitively with the parents of chronically ill students as well as for helping the other students in the classroom understand why their ailing classmates may look or behave differently.

"When a student goes away for cancer treatment and comes back with no hair, you need to be prepared for that," Clay said. "The book encourages educators to be aware of issues before they become a problem in the classroom. Teachers can't afford to wait until a student is teased."

On the other hand, Clay said, it's important for educators to respect the privacy of a chronically ill child and his or her family. Parents may not want a specific diagnosis shared with classmates for fear that their son or daughter will become ostracized. So the teacher must find a way to address the issue in class while respecting the wishes of the ill child's family.

"What do you say, and how do you say it?" Clay asks, adding that a section of the book on the topic of disclosure provides helpful suggestions.

More information about the book may be found online at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Media: Stephen Pradarelli, 319-384-0007,