Migraine in Schoolchildren: A Parent’s Guide

How parents can advocate for their children with migraine in the classroom

While migraine can be just as severe in children as it is in adults, children sometimes struggle to explain their symptoms and advocate for their health. As a result, children with migraine often don’t benefit from simple accommodations that could reduce the frequency and intensity of their migraine attacks. Read on to learn how parents can help school administrators, teachers and staff members understand and better accommodate students with migraine.

Have Healthy Conversations About Migraine

It’s important to have an open and ongoing dialogue with your child to make sure that you’re all on the same page and they’re receiving appropriate care in and outside of the classroom. Tell your child that migraine is a debilitating disease and their pain is valid. Teach them how to describe their pain, whether it’s with a number scale or non-verbal cues. Role-playing exercises can help children become comfortable telling an adult, whether a teacher or coach, that they’re having a migraine attack and to advocate for their needs. Your support goes a long way in helping them understand that migraine isn’t just a headache.

Educate Teachers and Nurses About Migraine

While migraine is common in school children, many school staff might not be familiar with migraine best practices. Talk to your child’s primary care provider before setting up an appointment with their teacher or nurse. A letter of support from your doctor explaining your child’s diagnosis and outlining several over-the-counter or prescribed medications will help guide the conversation, and give nurses something to refer to. Feel free to direct teachers and school nurses to our resource library to learn more about pediatric migraine.

It could be helpful to preface the conversation by outlining your overall goals, whether it be to help your child manage pain or stick to a routine as much as possible. The solution should not be for children to stay or go home with every headache. Promoting healthy pain-coping behaviors from a young age is especially helpful, since migraine can be a lifelong disease. If your child is old enough, include them in conversations with teachers, nurses and school staff.

Helpful Accommodations

Everyone experiences migraine differently, so it is best to collaborate with your child to come up with a list of potential accommodations that might help them manage their migraine. Several universal best practices include ensuring your child has access to water and snacks at all times and a cool, dark room for recovering from a migraine attack. If your child is sensitive to light, you could explore wearing sunglasses or a cap indoors, or switching out fluorescent bulbs for softer light.

What’s most important is to get your child’s educator on your migraine support team because they’re familiar with the school’s resources and ability to accommodate students with different needs. Download our free guide to school accommodations today and get your child the help they need. Our doctor-verified resource library has a variety of articles on pediatric migraine, and our Find a Doctor tool can help you find a headache specialist in your area.