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How can I support my student with M.E.?

Be prepared to be as flexible as you can. You can help by:

  • being flexible with attendance requirements
  • organising a reduced timetable, for work to be sent to them at home and/or make special arrangements in class or for exams
  • offering extended submission deadlines for assignments and projects
  • being aware that stress and anxiety can worsen symptoms
  • accepting one GP’s letter to cover all M.E. -related absences
  • being flexible with examination requirements by offering a separate room, extra time and/or rest breaks as appropriate.

If the student is able to attend classes, they may need breaks during lessons or lectures, support when they come back from an absence and time with you to go through the work that they have missed. Be prepared for students with M.E. to need a drink or a snack in your lesson.

If a student has visual difficulties they may need light to be minimised, or to have access to materials with different colour combinations eg. white on black rather than black on white.

Sensitivity to noise or chemicals including cleaning fluids may be an issue.

M.E. affects everyone differently at different times so your student may or may not need a wheelchair. If s/he does, rooms may need to be modified to ensure that there is sufficient space.

Work in partnership

Working in partnership with your student and their family is key. They are the experts on what the student is capable of doing and they will be able to tell you the level of support that they require.

Sarah Helton, a Special Educational Needs Teacher who has M.E., says: “If you are struggling to support a student with M.E. in school, make sure you have spoken to your school nurse for support and guidance on the condition and how to manage it in school, and your head teacher if you feel that the student requires outreach support at home and possibly a home tutor.

“As a professional, you can get support from your teaching union on your legal and professional rights and responsibilities for supporting a student with M.E. They will also be able to provide you with support if you are struggling to cope with the demands of teaching a student with such a complex condition.”