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Scoliosis Factsheet (for Schools)

What Teachers Should Know

Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine curves. A person with scoliosis may have a back that curves from side to side like an "S" or a "C." Conditions like cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy can cause scoliosis, but most of the time there is no clear cause.

Scoliosis can develop over time. Often, it's not diagnosed until a child is 10 to 14 years old, the ages when most kids have growth spurts.

Most students with scoliosis don't need any intervention because most small curves don't cause problems. But if the curve gets worse, it can:

  • become more visible
  • cause discomfort or pain
  • affect a person's lungs and heart
  • lead to damage in the joints of the spine

For significant scoliosis curves, doctors usually recommend that kids wear a brace. Most braces can be worn under clothing. In severe cases, surgery will help correct the curvature of the spine. With effective treatment, almost every student with scoliosis can have an active, normal life.

Students with scoliosis may:

  • feel embarrassed about wearing a brace
  • miss a lot of class time if surgery is needed
  • need extra time to complete assignments and make up tests
  • benefit from a 504 educational plan that calls for seating accommodations, extra time getting to and from classes, and elevator privileges if available
  • need to visit the school nurse for pain medicine or brace adjustments
  • need to be excused from physical education and sports

What Teachers Can Do

Most children with scoliosis have no physical limitations. Scoliosis does not affect a student's ability to learn, but wearing a brace or having physical limitations can make a student feel self-conscious or embarrassed. Encourage students to participate in all activities they're up to, and be understanding of any discomfort or tiredness they feel.

Depending on the degree of scoliosis, students may see several medical specialists. Allowing extra time to complete assignments and sending work home while a student recovers from surgery can help them keep up and not feel overwhelmed.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: November 2019