For Students

Education and ME/CFS: Information for Students

See also For Educators – for Information to share with Educators and School Staff.

Maintaining an education, be it in Primary, Secondary School or in a Tertiary Institution while being ill with ME/CFS is a challenging prospect for many reasons. You can often quickly fall behind due to the number of days/weeks/months even years you must take off from attending normal school hours.

Even when at school, you will likely be physically and emotionally exhausted and be suffering cognitive problems, or “brain fog”, leading to difficulty learning. It’s hard enough just to keep on top of school work let alone keep up with your friends who you will probably rarely see. If you feel things are getting to you and you need to speak to someone please contact Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800, Headspace, ReachOut.comYouth Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636, or Lifeline 13 11 14. Please also take a look at our page on Depression and Anxiety.

As detailed in For Educators, Dr Kathy Rowe, a paediatrician at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH), said that as well as missing out on years of academic study, the more important thing to worry about, is that students miss out on the social aspects that school offers. Dr Rowe found that years 7 to 10 could catch up on their education but many feel they have fallen behind with their peers in social settings. It’s important that your parents, teachers and others understand that you need to go to school for the social side as well as for the school work.

The good news from Dr Kathy Rowe and other researchers is that young people are more likely than adults to recover fully.

At Your School

You might find the following factsheet useful for your information but also to give to your teachers and other staff at your school.

If you are having trouble with your school, Distance Education or Home Visiting teachers DON’T WAIT please call Contact Us at Emerge Australia. We can:

  • Contact key school staff – such as school co-ordinators, school principle, school nurse, etc. to explain the impact of ME/CFS, on school and education and provide strategies for the school to put in place EARLY including an ME/CFS resource kit;
  • Provide ME/CFS fact sheets for inclusion in your school newsletter;
  • Work with parents, student and the school to establish an appropriate ME/CFS Pacing Plan as part of the School Learning Plan;
  • Facilitate setting up a peer support group at your school;
  • Please Contact Us to discuss appropriate options further.

Undertaking the Victorian Certificate of  Education (VCE) or NSW HSC – Special Provisions

Students with CFS/ME are able to complete their VCE  or VCAL studies. The Victorian Curriculum Asessment Authority (VCAA) offers a range of Special Provisions to assist students with disabilities or illnesses to complete their VCE examinations and schools may approve special provision and arrangements for school based assessment.

As each student’s condition may vary, students and teachers need to consult  with their Year 12  or VCE coordinator to discuss individual strategies for course completion. The VCAA recognises that schools, because of their knowledge of their individual students and their circumstances, can vary the school assessment programs to accommodate student circumstances. Guidelines relating to course completion can be found in the Special Provisions chapter in the VCE and VCAL Administrative Handbook 2014 (or the individual chapter) – also to be found at the VCAA website.

Parents, students and schools may direct any queries to the VCAA Special Provisions office on 9225 2219 or email vcaa.special.provision@edumail.vic.gov.au.

In NSW the equivalent “disability provisions are practical arrangements that make it possible for students with permanent or temporary disabilities to attempt the HSC examinations”, can be found at the The Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards NSW (BOSTES) website for Disability Provisions.

The Victorian Government

The Victorian Government Program for Students with Disabilities aims to maximise student potential growth in education and learning, and ensure that students with disabilities are valued and participate in all aspects of school life, consistent with optimal and relevant goals and aspirations.

The Victorian Government maintains the Better Health Channel and they have a page devoted to “Chronic illness – coping at school“.

Distance Education Victoria

Information about distance education in Victoria, for students with ME/CFS. Distance education is education that is not based in a physical classroom. Teaching and learning programs can be delivered in many ways – online, via disk, in print. Contact methods can include phone, email, chat, bulletins or simply by post.

Phone: (03) 8480 0000 Toll free (Victoria): 1800 133 511.

Ronald McDonald Learning Program

The Ronald McDonald Learning Program helps children recovering from serious illness, through one-on-one tuition and professional development for teachers. Provided by Ronald McDonald House Charities, the Learning Program helps seriously ill kids catch up on their missed schooling and enjoy the same chances in life as their peers.

They can help parents and teachers better understand the educational and developmental issues caused by serious health conditions.

Tertiary Education

Usually every University has a Disability Liaison Unit (or similarly named body), such as that at the University of Melbourne, The University of Sydney or Monash University for example whose stated aim is to “promote access and equity for students with disability, ongoing medical or mental health conditions”. Likewise TAFE institutions have similar services, for example at Holmesglen TAFE. You may find them to be a helpful first point of contact before or after enrolling in a course.

Additionally the Federal Government has a Higher Education Disability Support Program. They “provide funding to eligible higher education providers to undertake activities that assist in removing barriers to access for students with disabilities”.