National Eating Disorders Association

Recovering from an eating disorder is a long-term process. Students may miss significant amounts of time from school due to treatment and ongoing appointments. Here are some suggested strategies for helping students during and after treatment.

  • Meet with the student and parents before the student returns to school to discuss the support needed 
  • Work with treatment team and school to ensure the reintegration plan takes the student’s medical, psychological, and academic needs into account (upon re-entry, student may need supportive counseling, medical monitoring, release from physical education classes, meal monitoring, and ongoing communication between treatment team and family) 
  • Be aware of the effects of eating disorders on cognitive abilities, so your expectations are realistic 
  • Be flexible while balancing realistic workloads, deadlines, and the need to fulfill important learning goals 
  • Consider the timing of potentially stressful decisions (i.e., discussing if the student needs to repeat the grade) 
  • Try to minimize the long-term impact on the student’s career choice 
  • When making decisions about workload, consider the student’s medical, psychological, academic, and developmental needs 
  • Stay up to date on the latest changes to the students 504 plan or IEP 
  • Reduce homework load and alter deadlines where appropriate 
  • Recognize that the student’s reconnecting with friends may be difficult and stressful 
  • Provide extra academic support, especially after a long absence 
  • Work with the student and the parents to successfully re-integrate the child into full-time schooling 
  • Understand the potential long-term need for missed school for medical and therapeutic appointments and management of ongoing eating disorder symptoms 
  • Refrain from discussing food, weight, exercise, and dieting in the classroom 
  • Help school devise reduced workload for student, alternative assignments for physical education requirements, extended time on assignments/tests, peer tutoring, copies of class notes from missed days, and access to a quiet study location, as needed 
  • Advocate for the student (e.g., help student and/or his/her parents negotiate scheduling conflicts between school and doctor appointments) 
  • Work with administrators to create a healthy school environment (e.g., zero-tolerance of appearance-based teasing and bullying, adequate time to eat lunch, reducing or eliminating in-school weighing and BMI measurements) 
  • Promote alternatives to class activities that may trigger eating disorder behaviors (e.g., weigh-ins, co-education swim class, calorie counting in nutrition class) 
  • Facilitate a manageable reintegration into extracurricular and social activities, which may have become marginalized during the illness

Please note that your professional rights and responsibilities may vary by state and school system; please consult your school administration as well as any relevant local and professional organizations for information on regional guidelines.