How can the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) affect my child at school?

While most kids with multiple sclerosis (MS) have mild and manageable symptoms, some have symptoms that seriously affect their daily lives, including school. It's critical to recognize and address these symptoms before they affect your child's academic progress. This means knowing the warning signs.

Symptoms can change from week to week, so watch your child carefully. Here’s what to look for:

  • Vision: Blurry or double vision may impact reading, writing or attention.
  • Learning and memory: Because MS can affect brain function, a child’s attention span and thinking abilities, such as the ability to reason or process and remember information, may be impacted. This is especially true for younger children who develop active MS before they master educational building blocks, such as math and grammar. These children may be at risk compared to kids who master these subjects before they develop active MS.
  • Writing: Acute attacks or chronic symptoms can cause numbness, weakness, fatigue, poor posture or coordination problems, which can affect handwriting.
  • Socialization: Learning social skills is a critical part of development, and school is where most of this happens. MS can make being social at school more difficult. Children with MS may withdraw from peers because they feel different, depressed or embarrassed, or because of physical symptoms, such as fatigue. In general, children with more obvious physical symptoms are more likely to have trouble being social.

When a child's symptoms are making certain tasks difficult, try coming up with strategies to get the task done. For instance, your child can try counting on his or her fingers. When you teach your child a new way to do a task, see if it makes the task easier. Can your child do the task alone, or can they do it with help? Does that mean your child will need extra help in the classroom?

Kids with multiple sclerosis (MS) often miss school because of relapses, hospitalizations and doctors' appointments. Ongoing symptoms such as fatigue, depression and cognitive problems (memory and concentration difficulties) can affect not only school performance but also relationships with others and participation in social activities. They may experience self-image issues because of physical symptoms or negative responses from others regarding their MS diagnosis.

While not all children with multiple sclerosis (MS) experience these issues, they need to be recognized and addressed. Each school system has a process for developing plans to help students whose school performance is suffering and who are in danger of missing educational milestones due to chronic illness, such as multiple sclerosis (MS).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.