Dear Educator,

Have you ever noticed a student who has a sudden decline in handwriting or math skills? Who shows tics, increased anxiety, even rage? Who has hoarding issues and/or OCD? Urinary incontinence?

Perhaps, if you have worked with a student for a while, you’ve noticed a sudden personality change—or maybe not, because many kids try to hide their symptoms from educators and fellow students.

These symptoms can be an indication of a neuropsychiatric autoimmune disease, often referred to as PANDAS or PANS (Pedicatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcus or Pediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Sydrome.) 

October 9 has been designated as PANDAS/PANS Awareness Day. As teachers are often on the frontlines of childcare, we are asking that you help us spread awareness of this disease.

PANDAS/PANS is rarely diagnosed but it is not rare. PANDAS has been compared with rheumatic fever, but of the brain instead of the heart. Children suffering from PANDAS and PANS seldom get fevers; instead, when exposed to germs, their own antibodies attack their brains.

PANS has triggers other than streptococcus; pneumonia, Lyme Disease, flu and Coxsackie Virus are a few. Some children with PANDAS/PANS are so fragile that the common cold will result in symptoms. Some of these children develop immune deficiencies. Students may have frequent absences or may be diagnosed erroneously with a psychiatric disorder. Yet PANDAS and PANS are medical illnesses. Treatments often include doses of antibiotics, IVIGs (intravenous immunoglobin) and plasmapheresis. 

For your convenience, we have listed several resources:

Our aim is to increase awareness and research for these diseases which have robbed many students of their childhoods. Please join our team. Educate your colleagues. Be on the lookout for children who show these symptoms. Let parents know that there are options for children who are suffering from PANDAS and PANS. We need to share the hope.

One more thought: it is hypothesized that Amadeus Mozart may have had PANDAS. We’ll never know about people in the past. But we can help today’s children and those of the future.