Wise up, and get yourself acquainted with the real facts on children and ME

29th June 2001 at 01:00
WE are to be grateful that Pat Sweeney ("ME families and school term absences", June 15) does not hold a senior position in either the Department of Education, Benefits Agency or CBI because those children not fortunate enough to have perfect health would be facing a very bleak future.

And in suggesting that children who have a profoundly serious illness such as ME are the "victims" of self-indulgent parents, he is putting forward a view of the illness that leaves him in a minority of around one.

Our own charity, which does indeed confess to an interest in representing its young members, is working hard to ensure that children who have ME are given access to the kinds of educational opportunities and appropriate teaching that prevents them becoming isolated from the conventional education system.

Fortunately enlightened professionals do not make the same mistakes and recognise the importance of reintegrating children back into school at a pace that does not harm their long-term health.

Most bizarrely, he castigates the consumer society for putting unnecessary pressure on children and their parents, yet proposes a system of financial rewards aimed solely at children whose school attendance is above 80 per cent, thereby condemning those already vulnerable to further feelings of exclusion from their peer groups and wider society.

Should he want the detailed information on the nature of this illness that he is so clearly in need of, as well as guidance on how many schools are rising to the challenge of educating children with ME, we would be most happy to provide it. We are not, after all, entirely impartial on the matter.

Trish Taylor Chair of Children's Services Action for ME www.afme.org.uk

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