A chronic, debilitating illness like Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) can severely impact a student’s school experience and ability to participate. It is important not to mistake symptoms of the illness for laziness or avoidance of social interaction. Students with ME/CFS want to attend school and want to continue their education. Teachers can help by understanding the illness and supporting the student with accommodations like extra time on exams and assignments, or combining in-classroom instruction with home-based tutoring. One key is to work as a team with school administrators and parents to develop an approach that works for the individual student. School Fact Sheet for Parents, Educators, and School Nurses (Newton, 2017) describes the disease and the educational implications, while School Fact Sheet: Classroom Strategies (Newton, 2017) describes accommodations and teaching strategies. More information can be found in the resources below.
ME/CFS Fact Sheet for Schools, Appendix D in the Pediatric Primer (Rowe et al, 2017).
Letter to educators & agencies regarding younger people with ME/CFS, pages 27 to 28 of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis—Adult & Paediatric: International Consensus Primer for Medical Practitioners (Carruthers et al, 2012).
“Recognizing and assisting students with CFS,” New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) Review (Friedman and Underhill, 2007).
"Teach-Me: A Sourcebook for Teachers of Young People with ME/CFS or FM 2nd ed.," is an online booklet for educators. (Carruthers and Bell, 2005, reprinted 2012).
Note: CFIDS (Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome) is an older name for ME/CFS.
School nurses can help students with ME/CFS by believing students when they need assistance and by providing a quiet place to rest during the day. They can also help by keeping track of medications and side effects, and by keeping track of day-to-day variations in condition and functioning. Please see the documents below for more information.
“Evaluating ME/CFS: A Checklist for School Nurses” (Bell, 2009).
“Key Aspects of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) in Children and Adolescents” is a presentation for school nurses by Dr. Alan Gurwitt at the Northeastern University School Health Institute, August 2012 (Gurwitt, 2012).