Adding insult to injury

20th July 2001 at 01:00
IN response to the June 15 article in your paper from Pat Sweeney, headteacher of Holy Rood High School, we wish to refute strongly what was written in that article and make the following points: The "cartoon", so called, is in very bad taste and deeply offensive to sufferers and their families.

The implication of the first paragraph is that all the research is of a dubious nature and deliberately biased. This is a scurrilous allegation against all manner of people, professional and laity alike. ME is a very complex illness, difficult to diagnose, has more than one causal agent and affects people in a variety of ways. The effort to understand the rationale of the disease and how best to deal with its effects is world wide and any serious search of the Internet will give plenty food for thought.

Your correspondent is correct in stating that to lump all manner of problems affecting young people under the head of ME is simplistic and unhelpful. It is also, in our opinion, very wrong. However, having said that, ME is a distinct entity in itself and requires careful management.

Lack of proper diagnosis, treatment, support and and advice makes a difficult situation impossible for all concerned, including teachers.

As parents of a young person with ME we take the strongest exception to the comment which implies that "ME equals mother's encouragement". Having come through three very difficult and traumatic years coping with the situation, we can assure your correspondent that no right thinking parent would encourage absence from school, but when faced with a youngster on the point of collapse and unable to cope with the basics, something is clearly wrong, and insisting on school attendance will achieve nothing.

In our case our son struggled for over two years to cope with Highers and was finally forced, through illness, to pull out of school during the prelims. Now 18 months later as a result of treatment, which is still ongoing from a private consultant since there was nothing available under the NHS, he is at the stage of thinking about the possibility of finishing his education and rebuilding his life.

Finally, harassing pupils who are ill about school attendance just adds insult to injury and prolongs the problem. There is documented evidence from an educational psychologist that pupils with ME who pull out of school and get rest and treatment do achieve in the end, while those who do not, never catch up.

M H and M B Anderson St Fillans, Gavinton Duns, Berwickshire

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