ME/CFS in Children: Information for Teachers and Schools

What to know

ME/CFS can affect a child's experience at school. The CDC provides information for teachers, guidance counselors, and other school staff to help support students. Understanding the problems facing students with ME/CFS helps staff and students succeed in school.

Students raising hands while teacher asks them questions in the classroom

Helping Students Who Have ME/CFS

ME/CFS affects each student differently. Each child may experience different symptoms and the duration of their symptoms may differ as well. Symptoms can change from day to day and week to week. This change may affect a young person's ability to attend school regularly and complete work on time.

ME/CFS can affect children and adolescents in many ways, including:

  • Attendance.
  • Participating inside and outside of the classroom.
  • Relationships with peers.
  • Completing assignments.
  • Overall school success.

Understanding ME/CFS Inside and Outside the Classroom

Teachers and administrators not familiar with ME/CFS could mistake the illness for laziness or school avoidance. Below are examples of how ME/CFS symptoms can affect students.

  • School performance or attendance can be affected by memory or concentration problems, unrefreshing sleep, and headaches.
  • Problems can happen when trying to do several things at once. For example, doing homework and keeping track of time.
  • Severe symptoms are often experienced in the morning. Students may arrive late or have trouble staying alert.
  • Children with ME/CFS can have problems with attention, response time.
  • They can also have different information processing speed, and delayed recall of verbal and visual information.
  • Teachers may notice students with ME/CFS need more time to complete grade-level tasks.

Tips for Teachers and Administrators

ME/CFS is a complex disorder that affects how students learn and participate in school. The CDC developed tips that could help with learning.

  • Provide help with note taking.
  • Extend time for exams and assignments.
  • Schedule rest periods during class and throughout the day.
  • Avoid information overload.
  • Be open to combining school and home tutoring.
  • Modify physical education classes, or give exemptions if needed.
  • Give students an extra set of books to use at home.
  • Encourage organizers, schedulers and other tools for time management.