10 Things Migraine Families Wish Their Schools Understood
By Ellen Schnakenberg · January 14, 2013
What all school staff should know about Migraine:
- I am a Migraine patient, not a hypochondriac. Migraine is not a *mental* condition. Migraine is a genetic, neurologic disease that can affect my whole body. I look fine on the outside because what is happening to me is hidden on the inside. You may not understand my experience right now, but that doesn’t make it any less real for me or important for either of us to deal with. Migraine is not an excuse, and neither of us should use it as one.
- A Tylenol will not fix me. Like other conditions, Migraine occurs very much like a spectrum disorder, but is not a curable disease. One person with Migraine may work through their attacks, using an OTC medicine to get through the day, but that is unusual. Others take multiple powerful prescription medicines throughout the day and are disabled, unable to go to school or work for much of their lives because there is no cure for us yet. A Migraine attack can affect my whole body including my nervous system, digestion and urgent need for a bathroom. Migraine is not just a headache or pain disorder. We cannot just *get over it*and pain medicines are actually one of the worst things for us to use during an attack. The World Health Organization states that a severe Migraine attack is more disabling than quadriplegia.
- I may ask lots of questions, but this is my way to deal with a brain that isn’t working correctly. During a Migraine my brain is unable to function normally. Some of my neurologic symptoms include cognition and attention problems, brain fog and forgetfulness as well as problems understanding language and numbers. I may not have understood the answer to my question the first time I asked it, or may not have remembered that I even asked the question before. If my questions seem out of place, please see me after class or after school to clarify them when my schoolmates aren’t around.
- I’m still a motivated student, and I’m trying hard to succeed. What may seem to you to be laziness, tiredness or a discipline problem is a symptom of my Migraine attacks. These symptoms are neurological reactions to the Migraine process in my brain and no more in my control than an epileptic has control over his seizures, or an autistic girl has control over her autism symptoms. I may show these symptoms outwardly before I even know there is a Migraine in process. Please help me design a special hand sign or quiet phrase that lets me know you are noticing a change that might mean I will be Migraining soon. The earlier I know a Migraine is in process, the sooner I can take my meds and the less debilitated I am likely to become.
- Organization may be a problem for me, so keeping a notebook with me will make getting homework and assignments completed. You can help me by writing all assignment details on the board at the beginning of the day, reviewing all assignments at the end of the class period or by checking my notebook after class to be sure I haven’t missed anything that day. This is helpful to all the students in my class and will not draw special attention to me.
- I need help to succeed. Just like my other classmates, I want to succeed in your class. Because my brain isn’t working properly during an attack, this may be difficult beyond my control. Your help may make the difference in whether I succeed or fail. Let’s work together so I can thrive in your classroom!
- I want to stay in school, I do not want to be schooled at home. I want to be just like all the other kids in my class and I need to practice my socialization skills and bond with my friends, just like everyone else. I am trying hard to do what is expected of me, but my attacks may make staying in class difficult or even impossible. I realize this makes your job harder and I would change my situation if I could. Please work with me and my family so that I can attend your class as much as possible while my doctor and I work to get my Migraines better managed.
- Unfortunately, Migraine comes with significant stigma attached to it because of misunderstanding and stereotypes. Please don’t make me feel worse about my condition than I already do. I struggle even when you aren’t aware of it, and am aware that my problems affect those around me, adding to my feelings of guilt and poor self esteem. I may be embarrassed or self conscious about my Migraines and I want to be treated like a person, not a patient. I want to be liked and accepted at school. This is a private health problem and keeping my condition private may be important to me.
- Educating yourself about Migraine will help me and the other students you might have with Migraine attacks. There are currently approximately 37 million Migraine patients in the United States alone and many of us began getting Migraine as school aged children. I look up to you, and your reactions to my condition will help form my self esteem — good or bad. You are important because an educated teacher will make it easier for me and other Migraine students to do better throughout our entire lives.
- Migraine and depression often go hand in hand, and Migraineurs are at increased risk for suicide and other health problems. Please remember, depression and stress do NOT cause Migraine, but they may exacerbate it. Additionally, Migraine symptoms and medicines may make me seem foggy or depressed. This too is out of my control. Pain and school difficulties may also lead to situational depression I may not be aware of or are ready to acknowledge, however it’s important that I receive help if I become depressed. Please talk with me privately about how I’m doing periodically. I see you more hours of the day than my family, so I will depend on your help to get me through this difficult time.
Printable version of 10 Things Migraine Families Wish Their Schools Understood to share with teachers and school staff.
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