How We Can Help You
M.E is a complex and severe condition that affects 100’s of our children in Northern Ireland. We feel that it is vital that teachers have a partner to work with when they are trying to help their students manage their new situation.
M.E Support Northern Ireland will do everything in its power to support and advise both teachers and students on how we can all work together to improve the lives of our young people who are drastically affected by this illness.
If you identify any of your students with M.E, we would hope that you work to encourage the student to get in touch with M.E Support Northern Ireland.
We prove a range of services for all age groups and have a dedicated team who works with young people to provide them with advice and support and most importantly, understanding from people with personal experience of M.E.
Research has suggested that “teachers are 3-5 times more likely to contract M.E than the rest of the population” (Colby, P.15). Further, in “Canada there are thought to be 17,000 teachers disabled with M.E” (Colby, P.55).
The reason for this is not yet established however, there is some reason to believe that this is due to teachers being in constant contact with sources of infection which may act as a trigger for M.E.
M.E is a serious and disabling illness that the world health organisation classifies as a disease of the “central nervous system”.
The Department of Heath accepts this classification and the Chief Medical officers report echoes this stating M.E is “a genuine illness and imposes a substantial burden on the health of the UK population” that is “distressing [and] debilitating”.
One study found that the single leading cause of long-term sickness absence in school children is M.E. (Dowsett, 1997) while another found that “the children’s quality of life was significantly worse than children suffering with other illness. . . with only one child out of 25 being able to attend school full time” (Kennedy, 2010).
Children of all ages can have M.E with children as young as 5 having been diagnosed with M.E. However, the commonest age of onset is 13-15.
- The child’s health should come before their education
- The average bout of [M.E] takes around four-and-a-half years to resolve” (Colby, 2003) the focus should be on the long term rather than the short.
- “Nearly all children who are severely affected and many who are moderately affected will require the provision of home tuition and/or distance learning” (Hutchinson, P.63)
- A Report by the CFS/ME working group states “An educational plan is not an optional extra but an integral part of therapy” (Hutchinson, P.63) and that the “resumption of education, in whatever form, should be managed in keeping with the general principles of activity management” (Hutchinson, P.64).
- The pupil should never be forced to study at a pace set by their peers or teachers, rather pupils should be given the freedom and encouragement to set a pace that is sustainable for them.
- Additionally, insofar as it is possible the daily schedule of the child should be modified, oftentimes a child is feeling at his or her best later on in the day or evening
- Perhaps most importantly, due to the fluctuating nature of M.E building in flexibility to any education plan is paramount.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO HELP SYMPTOMS?
Due to the wildly varying nature of M.E, the needs of the individual pupil tend to be unique; because of this it is best to talk to the pupil about what changes can be made in the class room to help them in their education.
However, there are a number of common symptoms that can be mitigated to some degree by allowing some flexibility in the class room, such symptoms include:
- Hypersensitivity to light and sound – this can be mitigated to some degree by allowing the pupil to wear sunglasses indoors
- Hypothalamic dysfunction i.e. impaired body temperature regulation – allowing the pupil to wear extra clothing to keep warm may be helpful
- Hypoglycaemia – the pupil may need to eat or drink throughout the day to maintain a healthy blood sugar level. Symptoms of hypoglycaemia can occur quickly and eating or drinking in the classroom may be necessary
- Sensitivity to food – much like a child with a severe allergy, all appropriate steps should be taken to ensure that the pupil’s dietary requirements are followed.
- Hypersensitivity to smells – this can result in dizziness, headaches, vomiting, as a result, it may be necessary to take some small steps to lessen these symptoms e.g. keeping windows open or closed (depending on the environment).
- Gastrointestinal problems – the pupil may need to use the toilet frequently, to save disrupting to the class and embarrassment to the pupil agreeing with them ahead of time that they can use the bathroom without permission may be required
Benefits and Social care
There are a range of child specific benefits available for your child depending on their age and your household income including
- Child tax credit
- Housing allowance
- Carers allowance
- Council Tax relief
These benefits are vital for many families with sick children especially if one or more members of your household has had to leave work or reduce their hours.
There are a range of third sector services to help you through these processes & M.E Support Northern Ireland has a dedicated Benefits Advisor for our members. Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Shepherd, C. Chaudhuri, A in “ME/CFS/PVFS An Exploration of the Key Clinical Issues” (2017 ed) Key Cross Media, Unit 13, Wainman Road, Woodston, Peterborough PE2 7BU
Shepherd, C. “Living with M.E. the chronic/post-viral fatigue syndrome” (1998 ed) Ebury Press, Random House, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 2SA
Norheim, A. J & Fonnebo, V., “Adverse effects of acuncture” lancet, 1995, 345, 1576
Pheby, D & Saffron, L. “Risk factors for severe ME/CFS” (2009) Buckinghamshire New University, and National ME Observatory, Harnham, Salisbury, Wilts, UK, Bristol