Back-to-school stress and MS

Back to school can be a stressful time for parents and students alike. And MS can add extra challenges to the mix. It's important to know you're not alone, and that there are things you can do to make it easier.

For young people with MS, back-to-school stress is about more than just shopping for supplies and clothes, dealing with homework, and meeting new people. They may also have physical and cognitive issues that can affect their school experience. Physical issues may include coordination, bowel and bladder control, and fatigue. Cognitive problems, such as difficulty thinking, remembering, or concentrating, can also be an issue. Both physical and cognitive issues can add extra challenges when re-adjusting to schoolwork.

Young people with MS may also be concerned about how they will fit in socially and explaining their condition to peers so they will understand. Does this sound familiar? If so, see "Caitlin's story: Tips for kids and teens" for suggestions on how to make it easier.

Kids aren't the only ones with back-to-school stress. For parents, this time of year means buying school supplies, getting the family organized for the morning rush, ferrying kids to school and activities, helping them keep up with their homework, and providing emotional support. And even though you may be happy to get a bit of peace and quiet during the day or relieved to be back to the usual school-time routines, you may also miss your kids.

For parents with MS, MS symptoms of fatigue, cognitive issues, coordination problems, and bowel or bladder issues can make an already stressful time even harder. If this sounds like you, see "Marie's story: Tips for parents with MS" for a few tricks to help you through. If, like some adults, you are making your own way back to school, see "Randy's story: Tips for adult students."

Whether you're a parent or young person with MS, don't worry if the thought of going back to school is giving you butterflies! The tips in this health feature are designed to help make your back-to-school journey easier.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/MS-Back-to-School

Marie's story: Tips for parents with MS

Marie,* age 37, has been living with MS for the past 5 years. When her sons Nicholas and Bradley started school a few years ago, Marie struggled with back-to-school stress. Mornings were completely chaotic as she rushed to get the boys out the door and herself off to work. Homework was falling through the cracks, and Marie's fatigue made it hard to keep up with the boys' frantic school and extracurricular schedules. She felt as though things were falling apart, so she decided to make some changes.

Before the new school year started, Marie visited the boys' school to meet their teachers. She made sure to find out which supplies the boys needed; got a copy of the school rules about dress codes, behaviour, and starting times; and found out the school's contact information so she could keep in touch and let them know if they were running late.

A week before school started again that year, Marie helped her family get into a new daily routine. Now, Nick and Brad wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. They know who gets to take the first shower in the morning and how long they have to do each morning activity.

To deal with the morning rush, Marie set aside some time the night before to get ready for the next day. She would lay out clothes for the next day, make lunches, and pack bags so there were fewer things to do the following morning. And to help save her energy, she got the boys to help with getting their lunches and school clothes ready.

She also talked to Nick and Brad about their extracurricular activities, and told them it was okay to stop doing ones they didn't really like. This helped make their schedules more manageable.

Marie then scheduled activities with her MS symptoms in mind. She set up a time to help her kids with their homework when she was at her most alert and well-rested. She also organized a carpool with other parents so she didn't need to drive the boys to school and extracurricular activities every day. This gave her more time and energy to deal with homework and household chores.

What can we learn from Marie's story? You too can conquer back-to-school stress by getting your family into a routine, planning ahead, keeping your MS symptoms in mind when scheduling activities, and getting help from others, including your kids.

 
* The stories in this health feature are hypothetical patient stories based on the combined experiences of a variety of different people with MS.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/MS-Back-to-School

Caitlin's story: Tips for kids and teens

Until Caitlin,* age 15, was diagnosed with MS last year, she thought it was an "older person's disease." Although she was glad to finally have an explanation for her symptoms, she also found it hard to cope with MS, especially at school.

After her diagnosis, Caitlin's grades started to fall because of fatigue and difficulty concentrating. She felt embarrassed in gym class because she was not as coordinated as other students. And to make matters worse, a fellow student accused her of faking her problems since she "looked just fine." Plus, she felt that no one understood what she was going through because MS is so uncommon in young people.

Caitlin turned to her family, friends, and her local MS society for support. She joined a support group for young people with MS, and met others who were going through the same things. Together, they learned new ways to cope.

Before school started that fall, Caitlin decided to make a fresh start. She told her closest friends about her MS and arranged to give a presentation on MS at her school so other students would understand about the condition. Along with her parents, she also spoke to her teachers about accommodations that could be made during the school day. Accommodations are changes that a teacher can make to allow people with disabilities to participate in a regular class. For example, she arranged to reschedule tests when she wasn't feeling well, to take her tests in a quiet room to help her concentrate, and to change some of the activities in her gym class so she could do them more easily.

Together with her family, Caitlin organized her time at home to minimize her back-to-school stress. A week before school started, Caitlin got back onto "school time," getting up and going to bed at the same times that she would during the school year. The night before school, she planned out her outfit for the next day and got her lunch ready so she'd feel less stressed in the morning.

Because she often came home exhausted, Caitlin took time for an after-school nap. She scheduled her homework for when she felt most rested and mentally alert. As well, she got in touch with her school friends ahead of time to make sure she'd have someone to hang out with at school.

Caitlin found other ways to relieve back-to-school stress too. She made time every day for the things she enjoyed, like talking to friends on the phone. She also tried to get a bit of physical activity every day to keep herself active and relieve stress.

What can we learn from Caitlin's story? Finding support from others with MS, getting friends and family involved, settling into a routine, and finding time to enjoy life can all make back-to-school time easier.

 
* The stories in this health feature are hypothetical patient stories based on the combined experiences of a variety of different people with MS.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/MS-Back-to-School

Randy's story: Tips for adult students

When 58-year-old Randy,* who was diagnosed with MS 10 years ago, decided to go back to school, he had a lot to deal with. His friends thought he was crazy. He was worried about balancing his school and family responsibilities, and about whether he'd still remember anything from his school days. He was also concerned that his MS symptoms might interfere with his learning. But Randy had always wanted to finish the university degree he'd interrupted in order to take care of his family, so he forged ahead.

Randy decided that since he'd been out of school for so long, he needed an action plan for going back. His first step was to get organized. A few of weeks before going back, he bought a personal organizer and entered his school schedule into it. He also stocked up on textbooks and school supplies early to avoid the rush. Getting organized helped him feel less stressed.

Next, Randy contacted the university to check on accessibility services for students with disabilities. He was pleased to find out the university offered a number of services he could use, including study tips for adult students, barrier-free access to his classrooms (Randy gets around using a walker), an accessibility handbook for students and professors, and classroom accommodations.

Accommodations are changes a professor or teacher can make to allow people with disabilities to participate in a regular class. Each person may need different accommodations. Accommodations that may be helpful to a person with MS include:

  • scheduling exams and tests for when the student is most alert, and arranging to write them in a "quiet room" to minimize distractions
  • getting class notes from volunteer student "note takers" who provide copies of their notes
  • allowing extra time to complete assignments and tests
  • removing barriers to access for people using walkers or wheelchairs or, if necessary, moving the class to a more physically accessible location
  • large-print screens and books for people with impaired vision
  • "talk and speak" electronic devices that allow vision-impaired students to type into them and have their notes read back
  • lab partners or assistants who can act as the "eyes" of a visually impaired student during lab work

Randy went to each of his classes ahead of time to introduce himself to the professors. He then arranged the accommodations he needed with the professors and the accessibility services department at the university. Knowing he had the right to reasonable accommodations removed one source of stress for Randy. His professors also appreciated the advance notice.

Randy talked to one of his adult friends who had recently gone back to school, and learned that although they may feel out of place sometimes, adult students do have some advantages. They value the educational experience even more after having to wait for it, and they can draw on their past experiences to help put new knowledge in context. This left Randy feeling more confident and less stressed.

What can we learn from Randy's story? Talking to other adult students and getting organized can help you feel more at ease, and finding out more about the accessibility services at your school can help ensure your MS symptoms don't become a barrier to learning.

 
* The stories in this health feature are hypothetical patient stories based on the combined experiences of a variety of different people with MS.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/MS-Back-to-School