This page contains general information for parents and teachers
Support in the Learning Environment
Pain, fatigue, the variety of bowel and cardiovascular symptoms, and difficulty with many other symptoms associated with hypermobility syndromes can make activities of school, college and university education challenging.
Technically any child or adolescent can have interventions at school to ensure fair access to education and support learning. This may not have to be in the form of a formal ‘Statement’ i.e. it might be a ‘needs-led’ agreement, not a ‘statement-led’ agreement. However, the HMSA notes that more and more parents are seeking advice regarding formal procedures. The detail of this is usually agreed between the parents, school (often supported by a Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCO), and medical team including the physiotherapist and/or occupational therapist. This process is best started by parents first having a conversation with the school as many practical things may be possible through informal arrangements as well.
For details parents are encouraged to read more about this on the Government’ Department of Education webpages. Click Here to go to the website.
For Universities their Disability Unit will undertake an assessment and, with recommendation from the medical team, establish a plan with the individual.
Hand and wrist function is often a key issue. It may help to learn to ‘touch-type’ and to use large pen-grips – use of laptops and other electronic keyboards, or support by having a person scribe on a childs behalf should be part of normal day-to-day schooling to ease symptoms and support function, and not just something required for exams. Voice-recognition software may also be helpful. Other tips on schooling can be found in the HMSA Booklet “The Hypermobile Child – A Guide for Schools” (available through the HMSA Shop).
The following is a list of recommendations that individuals and centres of learning may find helpful. The challenge is to balance effective support for the individual without them also feeling or being isolated for being ‘different’ from their friends and peers.
- If practical allow study and completion of course work from home as required.
- Review timetables that make up the various subjects being studied to determine whether high levels of essay work etc. will coincide across the subjects. If it is possible to predict these peaks, is it also possible to then spread the work out and / or extend deadlines for completing work?
- Allow the use of a laptop in class / lectures and exams for those with poor hand function.
- For those with poor hand function, to negate the need to type or write things down: i. Allow the recording of classes / lectures etc, and ii. Have course materials presented electronically e.g., power-point presentations, to be made available in hard copy / electronically.
- The recommendations in point 4 may also assist those with poor concentration from pain, fatigue, medications and other causes.
- Allow rest periods. For example, some may use this to stretch painful joints and re-adjust, others to rehydrate etc.
- Wherever applicable it would be helpful to have the same desk / work-space set-up following appropriate ergonomic assessment. Chairs without arm rests and stools (such as those used at lab tables) can be very uncomfortable. Some have benefited from having bespoke chairs with wheels that can be taken to classes.
- For examinations and controlled assessments up to 25% additional time can be requested, plus an allowance for rest periods as required, and where hand function is poor, allowing work to be typed or to have a scribe.
Dr A J Hakim MA FRCP
Chief Medical Advisor and Trustee, HMSA
Written January 14. Reviewed by Donna Wicks, Dr J Simmonds, and Dr N Ninis. Review January 2017.