Lupus Special Needs Factsheet

What Teachers Should Know

Lupus is a disease that causes the immune system to mistakenly work against the body’s own tissues and attack healthy cells. Lupus can affect almost any organ.

Symptoms of lupus — such as joint or muscle pain, extreme fatigue, rashes, mouth ulcers, and hair loss — can vary widely from person to person. Other common symptoms are sensitivity to sunlight and some kinds of fluorescent lights, arthritis, seizures, kidney problems, and inflammation around heart, lungs, and abdomen. The cause of lupus is unknown.

There are three kinds of lupus:

  1. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the most common kind, can affect multiple organs.
  2. Cutaneous (skin) lupus usually affects only the skin, with rashes on the scalp, legs, or arms.
  3. Drug-induced lupus happens as a reaction to certain medications. In kids, anti-seizure, thyroid, and acne medications can cause lupus. Symptoms usually go away when patients stop taking the medication.

Almost all people with lupus take medication to control inflammation and reduce the risk of flare-ups, (times when symptoms get worse).

Students with lupus may:

  • need to sit in a warm area of a classroom and be able to move away from sick classmates
  • need to visit the school nurse for medications or to rest during flare-ups
  • need accommodations for missing class time or assignments due to absences because of flare-ups or medical appointments
  • need to wear sunscreen or protective clothing, or limit time outdoors
  • have difficulty concentrating and staying on task
  • need extra time to move between classes
  • need adaptive equipment to complete assignments
  • benefit from having an individualized education plan (IEP) or 504 education plan

What Teachers Can Do

During flare-ups, students with lupus may feel much more tired, sick, feverish, and achy than usual. Make sure you know your student’s symptoms, and work with parents and other educators to make a plan that promotes your student’s academic success.

Encourage your student to participate in all classroom and physical education activities, because regular exercise can help prevent fatigue and joint stiffness. During flare-ups, however, your student with lupus may need to rest or be excused from activities.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: February 2015