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Sickle Cell Disease Special Needs Factsheet

What Teachers Should Know

Sickle cell disease is an inherited disorder of the red blood cells. It affects about 100,000 people in the United States. African-Americans are affected most by the disease. However, forms of sickle cell disease may occur in people with different ethnic backgrounds, such as those whose ancestors came from Mediterranean countries (including Turkey, Greece, and Italy), East India, or Middle Eastern countries.

In sickle cell disease, the red blood cells become distorted and look C-shaped, like a sickle. Sickle cells die early, which leads to anemia. Also, these sickle-shaped blood cells tend to get stuck in narrow blood vessels and clog blood flow. This can cause severe pain and organ damage. People with sickle cell disease are susceptible to certain bacterial infections.

Students with sickle cell disease may:

What Teachers Can Do

Students with sickle cell disease may miss class time or be absent for doctor visits or hospital stays. Give these students special consideration regarding missed instruction, assignments, and testing.

Chronic fatigue or pain can make some students appear that they are not motivated to learn. Knowing the student well can help you make a proper assessment.

Kids and teens with sickle cell disease may not be able to play contact sports or participate in strenuous exercise — check with their parents. Otherwise, encourage your students with sickle cell disease to participate in moderate physical exercise and other school activities.

Allow your student to carry a bottle of water and take bathroom breaks. Allow breaks from instruction and activities when necessary. Avoid outdoor activities when it's very hot or very cold.

Have a plan in place in case your students experience any symptoms that require immediate medical attention.

Reviewed by: Mary Lou Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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