Activities and Outings
There may be some activities that pose too much of a risk to the young person’s health if they participate. This should be determined by individual assessment; the parent/guardian will be able to inform you of any activity, whether curricular or otherwise, that could cause a medical problem and so should be avoided.
Unless the parent, individual, or a medical professional specifies, the place of education must not exclude the young person from any educational provisions or activities. The Disability Discrimination Act is in place to protect individuals from any such exclusion. If you do have a concern regarding the high risk of a particular activity, ask the individual to provide medical confirmation that they can participate.
However, extra precautions and support may need to be adopted in order for the young person to partake in certain activities.
Unless it has been specified or the individual does not feel comfortable with taking part in a particular sport, participation should be allowed.
It is sometimes possible to prevent episodes by pre-warning the individual of any possible dangers i.e if playing football, explain to the individual that they could be unexpectedly hit by the ball. If shock is a trigger, this will hopefully rid of any surprise.
For the majority of cases, it is fine, unless specified, for the individual to partake in swimming lessons. It is important however that they test the water first, by gently wetting the face, hands and arms, to enable them to get used to the change in temperature. This will take away any shock element. They should also get out of the water gradually, again to get them used to the change in temperature.
You may feel that an extra, trained person should be present to keep watch over the individual during these lessons. The parent/guardian may be willing to do this.
Should a syncopal episode occur in the water, pull the individual out of the pool as quickly as possible, make sure there is no water in their mouth so they cannot choke and follow the routine management procedure.
Children are forever falling over! It would be impossible to stop this from happening. It is very difficult to prevent children from running around and playing on play equipment. Moreover, this exclusion would make them feel different from their peers, which could ultimately be used as a weapon for bullies. Therefore the best way to manage these situations is simply to be prepared and ensure that trained individuals are available to manage an episode, should one occur.
If it is possible ‘pre-warning’ the child of possible dangers in the playground, i.e. informing them that they may fall off at the bottom of the slide and ‘bump’ themselves can prevent such an occurrence from being such a shock and may prevent a full-blown episode.
A school outing can be the main contention between staff, parent and child. If, as suggested, enough members of staff are properly informed and trained to manage a syncopal episode, it should be possible for a child with syncope to be fully supported and accompanied on a school outing. If significant difficulties arise, depending on the nature of the trip, the parent/guardian may be willing to supervise.
You may feel that the risk is too high for the individual to participate on a school visit or trip. This should be discussed with the parent/guardian and if necessary, their medical consultant. Wherever possible, the child should be included. This may mean that it is necessary to implement special needs provisions to enable participation. The main point to remember is that the individual must not be excluded on the basis of their condition.
It is not uncommon for an episode to be triggered during a lesson, by a particular subject, such as Biology. Sometimes, exposure to pictures, videos or demonstrations that portray blood for example, can be a shock and may trigger a syncopal episode. What would cause this depends upon the triggers particular to the individual.
The best way to try to prevent this from happening is to pre-warn the individual of any possible material that may cause an episode. If the individual with syncope is informed before the lesson, they will be prepared, so removing the shock/surprise trigger, and will have the opportunity to follow the measures they have been taught to adopt to help prevent episodes.
Some employers may be concerned about the risks associated with accommodating a student for work experience, mainly because it is for such a short time. The best way to enable a pupil to participate in work experience is for the individual to be placed in a place of employment where there is minimal risk of an episode occurring, thus minimising the health and safety risk for the employers. For example, working in a factory or with machinery for a week may be too risky if episodes are frequent, so placement in a shop or an office may be a more sensible option, but would provide equal benefits for experiencing the world of work!