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  • Pain levels often fluctuate. Students experiencing chronic pain may have days where symptoms are more severe than others.
  • Stress can increase symptoms. Maintaining a healthy life balance can be important to manage pain and reduce flare-ups.
  • Adjusting body position can help. Individuals often find that certain body positions can help them minimize pain. Some students may find it necessary to alternate between standing, sitting, or lying down. Others may find it helpful to sit in certain postures to take pressure off certain areas of the body.
  • Class absences may result During severe flare-ups, a student may not be able to attend school that day.
  • Chronic pain is often not visible to others. It is not always obvious when an individual is experiencing significant pain. It is important to be sensitive to a student’s situation even when the extent of the impact is not visible to others.
  • Be understanding of student’s need to shift posture during class. Understand that the student may need to vary their position during class in order to manage pain. They may stand for some time and then sit, for example. In some cases the student may be permitted to leave class for short walking breaks to help increase stamina for the duration of their class time.
  • Provide links to course content. Provide links to course resources and other supporting course materials, such as handouts, so that students can review later if they were unable to concentrate fully in class.
  • Provide detailed course expectations at the start of term Provide course expectations and due dates well in advance so students can plan their time to minimize stress and allow a pace of work that gives them the rest and balance they need.
  • Recording lectures.
  • Note taker.
  • Specialized seating in the classroom.
  • Ability to take short breaks during class time.
  • Reduced course load.
  • Extended time on course assignments.
  • Extended time for tests and exams.
  • A separate setting for exams to allow movement.
  • Writing long exams over two sittings.
  • Rescheduling exams.
  • Chronic pain conditions such as Fibromyalgia, Arthritis, or chronic migraines.
  • Impacts from motor vehicle accident or other traumatic injury.

Case Study

Berry is a talented student with a keen interest in the sciences and strong motivation to learn. Instructors can see that he pays attention in class. His work is of high quality much of the time. However, instructors also notice that he seems to have difficulty sitting through an entire lecture comfortably. He has missed several days of class time due to illness which he has let his instructors know about. After watching him struggle to stay focused in class one day, Berry’s instructor decides to ask how things are going for him and if there is anything that the college could do to support his learning. Barry shares that he is enjoying the class, but that he is experiencing a great deal of back pain from a recent car accident. This makes it very difficult for him to sit through a 1.5 hour lecture and on some days his pain is so severe, he can’t come to class.

Barry’s instructor lets him know about the Disability Services office and asks if he is aware of the services they can provide. Barry explains that he did not know that his situation would be considered as a disability. The instructor explains that he believes it could be since it has a significant impact on his ability to learn.

On the instructor’s advice, Berry meets with a Disability Advisor. He is able to access an adjustable chair to use in his classes. He also is able to access a set of notes from a student note taker and to record lectures. This allows him to review content that he may not have been able to focus on properly during class due to his pain levels that day. Finally, he can access more time for exams and a separate setting. This allows him to take short breaks or to adjust his position during tests which improves both his stamina and concentration during tests. Berry still finds managing his pain levels challenging but these added flexibilities are helping him to get more out of class and to provide the balance he needs.

Videos

Shannon’s experience with accommodation for chronic pain:

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