Teaching Healthcare Management to Students with Disabilities

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Helping students with disabilities gain skills for independence is such an important and meaningful part of their overall education. This lesson discusses what it means to teach students with disabilities how to manage their healthcare.

Why Healthcare Management Helps

As a high school teacher in a self-contained special education setting, or one where students with disabilities learn separately from their typically-developing peers, Lara knows she has a great deal of responsibility. Of course, she spends a lot of time on academic instruction, but Lara also knows that it is crucial for her to equip her students with skills for independence in the world beyond school.

Lately, Lara has been thinking about how much time she spends on self-care outside of the classroom. Though she has no chronic medical needs, she knows how important it is to get preventive medical and dental care.

Lara realizes that her students, many of whom have complex medical profiles, will be better equipped to care for themselves for the rest of their lives if she devotes time to healthcare management, or teaching students how to oversee and advocate for their own medical care.

Health Education

First, Lara starts thinking about the health education she offers her students. Health education is any teaching related to health and well-being. For example, when Lara teaches her students about how their lungs work in the context of a biology unit, she also teaches them about how to manage asthma, an illness many of them struggle with.

Health education can look different for students with disabilities from how it looks for typically-developing students. First of all, they sometimes have specific health concerns to think about. Lara dedicates extra time to teaching her students with vision impairments how their eyes work and what they need to do to care for their vision, for example.

Second, Lara is careful to incorporate a variety of different teaching techniques so that she can reach students with various learning modalities. She uses visual strategies like graphic organizers to help students think about their bodies and their minds. She also uses tactile strategies, including role-plays of doctor's visits, and chances for students to enact what it feels like to be sick in different ways.

Organizational Skills

Health education is not the only thing Lara thinks about as she prepares her students to manage their healthcare, however. She also sees an important relationship between healthcare management and executive function, that part of the brain that has to do with planning, organization, and memory.

Lara teaches her students how to use their organizational strategies to keep themselves physically and mentally healthy. This includes, but is not limited to, teaching them the following strategies:

  • Making charts to keep track of what doctors they need to see with what frequency
  • Using calendars and digital datebooks to keep track of different medical appointments
  • Using charts and special containers to keep track of medications, when they need to be taken, and when their prescriptions are running out
  • Building in time each day or week for exercise, meditation, and other aspects of physical and mental self-care
  • Using shopping lists and cookbooks to plan nutritious and budget friendly meals

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