M.E. affects an estimated one in every 100 secondary school children in the UK aged between 11 and 16 years, from all social classes and ethnic groups and is the biggest cause of long-term school absence. However, M.E. does not just affect teenagers. The youngest child diagnosed was aged two.
Teaching and supporting a child with this complex condition can be challenging. However, the outlook for young people with M.E. is good and most will improve.
Accepting the limitations of M.E. and setting realistic targets will help your pupil and their family cope with the demands imposed by M.E.
It’s important to remember that children may struggle to keep up with school work and their attendance may fluctuate. This can lead to misunderstandings which, in rare cases, may escalate to the point where child protection proceedings are initiated. This can be avoided by learning about M.E. and its potential impact.
Action for M.E. and the Association of Young People with M.E. (AYME) jointly publish a booklet, Your child and M.E., which features contributions from children about what it feels like to have M.E. Comments include:
“All my senses are hypersensitive. And noise is painful and bright lights hurt my eyes.”
“I can’t concentrate on any kind of reading, writing or watching television for more than ten minutes.”
“I sleep all day and am awake all night. I try to sleep, but the inside of my head just goes round and round.”
“My energy is used up so quickly, even on simple things like sitting up or getting dressed.”
Children with M.E. may have special educational needs and teachers must take reasonable steps to ensure that they are not placed at a substantial disadvantage compared to others.
It is good practice for children with a long term medical condition such as M.E. to have an individual education programme drawn up in collaboration with their school, local education authority, the child and their parents.
Some children may only be able to attend school part-time and for others, long absences may occur. The child’s GP, paediatrician or specialist will usually need to write to the school and offer guidance on what is a suitable level of attendance them, or if they feel a home tutor would be better at this stage in your pupil’s condition.