Children with IBD: Overcoming Challenges

I recently attended a talk that I found inspiring and helpful, whether your personal challenge is inflammatory bowel disorder (IBD) or any other life issue.  The point that the speaker made is simple, yet one that is worth sharing: It is to remember that everyone has a problem or difficulty of some sort to deal with.

For some, like the motivational speaker I heard, it happens to be a very visible physical disability; for others, like many of our IBD patients, it can often be hidden, an invisible illness.  What is important to remember is that at the end of the day, we are all just people, not our illness. This goes along with my advice to parents of children diagnosed with IBD, that one of the best gifts you can offer your child is the gift of a normal happy life.

There are many resources available to parents at the Children’s IBD Center to assist in normalizing life at home once a child is diagnosed with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.  We offer educational lectures to our parents and community in a variety of locations because, we believe that accurate information about IBD makes it easier to manage the condition.

While parents attend the lectures, we invite children to be part of our friendly and social KidsCHAT, which we designed to help break the isolation that may occur for patients dealing with their IBD. On Tuesday afternoons at the Mount Sinai IBD practice in NYC, the full team—including a social worker, child life specialist and a nutritionist—are available to meet and assist patients and families.

Our new additions to the Children’s IBD Center include a Teen Alliance, co-facilitated with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, and our “Gut Feelings” special program that will match IBD parents/patients with families to share their experiences. These resources can serve as a vital part of helping families cope with and emerge from the challenges and stigmas that may be associated with IBD.

Together with parents, the staff at the Children’s IBD Center works hard to set our children up for success, by seeing each patient as a person, not their disease. Children and teens need to be supported as they reject any label of “different” because of a medical diagnosis. They need to refuse to be told what they can’t do and focus on rather what they can. The mission at the Children’s IBD Center was born out of the belief that even if there are obstacles to overcome, all our patients’ dreams and aspirations can and should be followed.

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Bambi Fisher  is a licensed clinical social worker who has worked at Mount Sinai for over 15 years. She specializes in chronic illness management, preschool mental health consultation, and parental guidance. Ms. Fisher also serves as the Clinical and Outreach Coordinator at Mount Sinai’s Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU). She was influential in the development of Greening Mount Sinai, a grassroots initiative that promotes environmentally prudent policies at the Icahn School of Medicine.

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