This disease is all too real

13th July 2001 at 01:00
Why did The TESS and Pat Sweeney collaborate to produce the sensationalised and demeaning piece on young people with ME, myalgic encephalopathy (June 15)?

Children with ME are clearly among the long-term absent from school, and although I could write at length about the debilitating and destructive horror of ME, I doubt if Mr Sweeney would take any notice, so I will be brief.

ME is not, as he suggests, a catch-all label for absence whether or not it is condoned by parents. Nor is it a psychosis. It is true that people with ME are frequently depressed but it is a genuine and disabling neurologically-determined illness that takes away precious youth, freedom, education and sometimes hope itself, and was designated a disease of the nervous system by the World Health Organisation in 1992.

Mr Sweeney acknowledges in his column that teachers have to manage symptoms of a variety of special needs without "knowing or understanding the source of the condition". I was under the impression that schools have a legal duty to understand and provide for special educational needs.

This duty does not equate with ignorance of the facts, even if this is hidden behind standard "knock the parents" rhetoric. For it is a fact that neither a mother's nor a father's encouragement will have any effect on an ill child's ability to overcome hisher ME symptoms and to drag himselfherself to school (or to sports events, to clubs, to family celebrations or to engage in any other normal youthful activities).

Val Hockey

Chief executive

ME Association

Corringham Road

Stanford le Hope


Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today