Guidance for Teachers Who May Suspect a Student is Struggling with an Eating Disorder

Contributor: Julie Rami, BS and Nancy Anderson, BS writers for McCallum Place

students-395568_1280Eating disorders have a high rate of onset during middle and high school years. Teachers are an excellent source for early identification of students struggling with an eating disorder.

Eating disorders are not always visible by looking at the student. People who are struggling with ED come in all shapes, sizes, races and genders. Some of the behaviors that are seen in the classroom are as follows:

  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Engages in fewer social interactions with peers
  • Absenteeism
  • Marked increase or decrease in academic performance
  • Avoids eating in the classroom (parties, celebrations etc.)
  • Drastic physical changes
  • Obsessive communication about food, exercise and weight

A complete list of physical, emotional and behavior signs can be found by accessing the NEDA Educators toolkit here.

Student Assistance Programs and Protocols

Ideally, your school has some sort of student assistance and protocol in place already. It may be as simple as a referral to the guidance counselor, followed by a faculty meeting to discuss the concerns surrounding the student.

Schools should be able to provide referrals to qualified professionals (therapists, dieticians, doctors) that have knowledge and experience with identifying and treating individuals with eating disorders. A protocol needs to be followed so that everyone knows their responsibility in the matter at hand. A sample Student Assistance Form can be viewed here.

Being Sensitive to the Warning Signs

happy-mom-and-child-cookingBecause educators have an opportunity to be a first point of contact for a student, they need to be sensitive to the warning signs of an eating disorder. Often the information shared in a health class can open the door for discussion and awareness.

Encourage your school to establish an awareness program on campus as an effective tool for exploration and support amongst the students. REbel is a peer education program designed to address body image issues and disordered eating, and can help in establishing such a program at and

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

Are you someone that has received assistance from a teacher or a teacher that has assisted a student with an eating disorder? What steps were taken to provide help?

About the Authors:

Nancy Anderson received her Bachelor of Science in Education from Loyola University of New Orleans. She has certification to teach in Louisiana and Missouri. She has taught in several traditional and alternative setting before going part time and joining McCallum Place in 2004. She works 1:1 with the students, their home schools, families and therapy teams to ensure student success in an adaptable educational environments.

Julie Rami received her Bachelor of Science degree in Special Education from Eastern Illinois University and her Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a Reading Emphasis from University of Missouri. She also has certificates in elementary education, social/emotional disorders and learning disabilities. She worked in a Chicago suburb for 5 years as a resource teacher/inclusion facilitator until she moved to St. Louis. Upon moving to St. Louis she opened and operated a tutoring business for ten years. She has been with McCallum Place as one of our teachers for ten years acting as a liaison between the patient and their school. She addresses student’s needs and modifies materials to ensure student’s success in an adaptable educational environment.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 31st, 2015
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