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Educators Encounter More 'Hidden Disabilities'

The Wall Street Journal reports that a rise in the diagnoses of "hidden disabilities"—those that are debilitating but not visible, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and migraines—is putting a strain on both teachers and already tight special education budgets.

The article tells the story of 15-year-old Christina Gustavsson, who missed five months of school due to CFS, a condition "characterized by debilitating pain and severe fatigue." CFS continues to confound doctors and has "no diagnostic or blood test, no known cause or cure." The Wall Street Journal states that the number of "students diagnosed with various chronic health impairments that sap their energy and hurt school attendance are one of the fastest-growing groups of special-education students. Their numbers have more than doubled since 2004." One 15-year veteran teacher said she had never had contact with a student who had CFS until this year.

For Gustavsson, the school has tried shortened days, tutoring at home, and live video feeds and recordings of her classes. But Gustavsson, who says she loves school, has made little progress.

It's a sad scenario and, like Gustavsson, the teachers, administrators, and parents involved are clearly drained. Have you seen an uptick in "hidden disabilities" among your students? What have you found to be helpful in teaching students with these conditions?

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