Myths about ME condition

11th April 2003 at 01:00
As co-author of the 1997 research paper that first identified ME as the biggest cause of long-term sickness absence from school, I was concerned to find "depression and ME" as bedfellows in your otherwise excellent piece on exam stress ("Sick and tired of tests", TES, March 28).

The hypothesis that ME is a mental health disorder has long been disproved, but the myth persists.

As a former headteacher and member of Sir Liam Donaldson's working group on ME, I can not only confirm Dr Speight's findings that exams cause relapse, but also that education generally is a key cause.

Most teachers are unaware that ME is a neurological disorder on a par with MS or polio- myelitis. It can cause partial paralysis and necessitate tube-feeding. The child's brain can suffer oxygen deprivation on effort, together with low cortisol levels that make normal demands unmanageable.

Your feature states that "some schools are prepared to be flexible". The Department for Education and Skills endorses Sir Liam's report, which clearly states "an educational plan is not an optional extra but an integral part of therapy".

All schools have a duty of care and many are in danger of failing in that legal duty to children disabled by ME.

Jane Colby

Executive director

Tymes Trust

PO Box 4347


Ingatestone, Essex

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