Chronic Illness: Psychological and Educational Impact

Presenter: Michael C. Zarabi, Psy. D.
Download this webinar’s corresponding slides here.
View this webinar by clicking here
Dr. Zarabi presents on how chronic illnesses affect many children and adolescents in the United States and how vital it is that school personnel be knowledgeable about them.


  1. KelleyT says:

    Can you speak a little about the effects on chronic illness in a young adult, particularly one that has a congenital abnormality?

    • Dr. Zaraby says:

      Young adults may process their symptoms at a more manageable level than children/adolescents, but they will bear the hardship of their condition. Adults can go through periods of depression, anger, and resentment, depending on the severity of their symptoms at any given time. It’s important to regulate these feelings and surround yourself with a support network. Focus on feeling well and not on the times you don’t. Your illness does not define who you are.

  2. KelleyT says:

    Speak a little about the value of speaking to the school about their illness. Some parents seem to be reluctant to label their child.

    • Dr. Zarabi says:

      Dont’ be bashful. If you don’t speak on behalf of your child, who will? School personnel need to be aware of what your child struggles with. Inform them of the symptoms, what to look for in class, how they learn best. Getting services for your child just makes you an involved parent who wants the best for your child and there is nothing wrong with that. There is no label. That being said, approach your school district calmly and in a positive mind set. Don’t focus on what they are not doing, help them realize what they should be doing.

  3. KelleyT says:

    Talk a little more about mindfulness techniques for both kids and adolescents.

    • Dr. Zarabi says:

      Mindfulness is really just about being aware of your body and how that relates to your mental state. Help your child identify what parts of their bodies are symptomatic and how long it lasts. They should understand how their body works and ultimately be able to gain control of their physical symptoms through controlled breathing and various relaxations techniques that tune them into the physical manifestations of their illness.

  4. KelleyT says:

    Address the discipline of a chronically ill child – my husband and I don’t agree on what is acceptable behavior and that impacts our other kids.

    • Dr. Zarabi says:

      It’s easier said than done, but you should really try to discipline all children as equally as you can, even one with a chronic illness. Of course, each child is different and has his/her own needs, but it’s difficult for other children in the house to understand those differences and accept that discipline will also vary. Try talking to your other children about how each person in the house requires certain help. Your chronically ill child should not receive different consequences for the same infraction as the other children, unless the infraction is somehow directly related to their illness and he/she can’t control it. This is a tough one, but try to be as consistent as you can across all children. You want to help your ill child, but not separate them from the rest of the family.

  5. KelleyT says:

    Talk a little about the stress in a family with a chronically sick child including the effects on siblings.

    • Dr. Zarabi says:

      The family is always involved when one child is ill. There is always an impact. It’s only natural to place more emphasis on the ill child. However, if you are aware of this, make it clear to your other child why this is happening and help them understand why their sibling requires this help. I would also monitor you healthy child’s behavior. There can be resentment and acting out behavior, when one child recognizes a difference in parental attention. Provide each child with their own special day, either with both parents or just one, so they can have their own time. You may also want to contact some local support groups for siblings of ill children. Sharing experiences with others can have a very positive impact.

  6. KelleyT says:

    I am learning consultant at a school and I am physically disabled and would like to know if you do any presentations about adults in the work place. What type of accommodations can be made available. I had requested a 504 plan from my district and was told that I don’t need one I can just ask the principal in any building for what I may need. At times as we all know this does not always work. Any assistance would be appreciated.

    • Dr. Zarabi says:

      Unfortunately, I don’t currently offer presentations with regard to adults, however, the same principles generally apply. You are protected by the American Disabilities Act and as such, are entitled to accommodations in the work place. I would research some of the stipulations regarding Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and see what is offered. I am pretty sure you are entitled to a 504 plan for accommodations. The district may be telling you this to prevent any type of lawsuit or hassle. I would contact your union representative as well, if the district is being difficult.