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Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Children’s Therapies

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Return to school

You need to prepare for returning to school or college or as soon as possible. You do not need to wait until you are completely pain free.

Most people aim to return to school or college three to six weeks after their operation. They may return earlier or later than this dependent on how the surgery went, consultant instructions and how they manage after surgery.

The main problems with returning to school are difficulty sitting, pain and fatigue.

You need to tell your school you are having surgery, and ideally make a 'back to school' plan with the school staff so they fully understand what your needs will be when you return, and respond accordingly.

Below are some practical tips to consider and discuss with your school.

Practical tips

A graded return to school is strongly recommended - starting with a couple of lessons, then a half day, and gradually increasing the time spent at school.

Do not take part in PE lessons or sports until the Consultant team has given you the go-ahead - this is likely to be around 6-12 months after your operation, depending on your progress.

In the short term, travelling on busy public transport or school buses may be difficult, so try to make alternative transport arrangements.

Ask permission to leave classes five minutes early, to avoid being knocked in corridors, and allow extra time to get to the next lesson.

Sitting for long periods of time is challenging after spinal surgery, and needs to be built up gradually. Time between lessons does not allow for a long break from sitting, so you may become tired or uncomfortable. Inform school staff that you will need to spend some time during lessons standing or walking around: the school may also need to provide you with somewhere to lie down.

Avoid bending/twisting: sit directly in front of the classroom whiteboard or screen.

Do not open heavy doors, such as fire doors.

Generally it is possible to manage a flight of stairs, with supervision, as long as stairs are not crowded: however, you might need permission to use the lift to get to classrooms on different floors.

The school must give you permission to use a disabled access toilet: these tend to be higher than regular toilets, with rails to hold on to alongside. This makes them easier to get on and off.

Do not carry heavy equipment or books. Ask a 'book buddy' to help carry heavy items. Avoid using a bag which hangs over one shoulder, as it could upset your balance and increase your risk of falls. A light backpack over both shoulders is preferable. Ask for access to a locker, if one is available.

If you or staff at your school have any queries please contact Occupational Therapy: 01865 234001