Commentary

Rx for kids: More recess

We know some schools are cutting back on recess. We know that childhood body-mass index can predict Type 2 diabetes later in life. And we know that over a lifetime, the cost of Type 2 diabetes is, on average, is $238,000 in the United States.

So I wonder what would happen if a pediatrician looked at an overweight child with a family history of diabetes, and prescribed 30 minutes of physical activity every day.

U.S. public schools must follow the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which special services for children who fall into one or more of 13 categories of disabilities: autism, deaf-blindness, deafness, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, intellectual disability,  multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, specific learning disability, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury or visual impairment (including blindness).

Because it sounds vague, my attention turned to “other health impairment.” Here’s what the law says specifically:

(9) Other health impairment means having limited strength, vitality, or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, that–

(i) Is due to chronic or acute health problems such as asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia, and Tourette syndrome; and

(ii) Adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

There’s “diabetes.” And interestingly, the law reads “such as,” not “limited to.” Quick show of hands, who has known a child who was far more “alert with respect to the educational environment” after he or she spent 30 minutes burning off some excess energy? All the hands are up. I thought so.

So getting back to the prescription for recess, I can imagine a principal begging off. That 30 minutes could take place any time before or after school, outside the important lessons that take place inside the schoolhouse. Teachers need what little time they have with students to make sure they’ve mastered math and writing.

I get that. We ask a lot of our schools, and sometimes we parents and taxpayers make unreasonable demands. But I also get that a teacher’s job would be much easier if schools didn’t treat recess or phys ed as an afterthought.

And now, that there’s plenty of research that connects a lack of activity to an expensive life of a Type 2 diabetic, I don’t think schools can take kickball or tag or tossing a football as something less than mastering a times table or subject-verb agreement.

I know that lots of parents face greater difficulties in dealing with school systems than my family ever did. I’d love to know if you’ve tried to advocate for more recess time. I’d love to hear your efforts — positive and negative — at negotiating the 504 process.

And how much recess does your child get? It seems like few schools offer any significant amount of recess, but is that wrong? Let me know. 

Leave a comment, or write me at diabetesfreepress@gmail.com 

 

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