Providing Learning Support for Students with Hidden Disabilities and Dyslexia Undertaking Fieldwork and Related Activities

How to Support Students with Other Hidden Disabilities

Support issues for particular medical conditions

Different medical conditions, their characteristics and the action which should be taken
Medical Condition Presentation Provoking Factors Action
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Cold
  • Exercise
  • Allergen, e.g. pollen, animals
  • Stressful situations
  • Can be worse at night
  • Asthmatics should always carry their medication
  • Consider terrain and climate
  • First aid involves keeping the person comfortable, sitting them up, reassuring them and allowing them to use their inhaler. Seek medical help if needed.
Diabetes and hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) Emergency tends to be hypoglycaemic attack, with a sudden onset. They will:
  • Be weak, faint, hungry
  • Behave oddly
  • Sweat
  • Have cold, clammy, pale skin
  • A deteriorating response
Provoked by:
  • Excess exercise
  • Excessive alcohol
  • Lack of food
  • Illness
  • May also accompany heat exhaustion, hypothermia and epileptic fit
  • Medical history
  • Access to emergency services. Oral sugar will need to be given if conscious
  • Regular mealtimes
  • Storage of medication, e.g. insulin in fridge
  • Person to be responsible for making provision for syringe disposal and emergency sugar supply
  • Consider hygiene if insulin-dependent
Epilepsy Seizures may be a brief 'absence' or major when there is sudden collapse, stiffening of the muscles and jerking of the limbs. Alarming to witness but usually not life-threatening and often brief. Following a rest they can resume normal activity.
  • Excess tiredness
  • Hypoglycaemia
  • Stress
  • Safety of location depending on stability of the epileptic, e.g. working near cliff, water etc.
  • If unstable, consider buddy system/supervision
  • Access to emergency services
  • Person may need recovery time and place
  • Person should take medication with them
Musculoskeletal disorders, e.g. arthritis, back pain
  • Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced stamina
  • Negotiating difficult terrain
  • Long working sessions
  • Driving
  • Sitting
  • May need to modify visit if terrain difficult
  • Consider using additional transport
  • Incorporate rest periods
Lung and kidney conditions
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced stamina
  • Frequent absences
  • Terrain
  • Length of work sessions
  • May require privacy and facilities for treatments
  • May need to modify visit if terrain difficult
  • Consider using additional transport
  • Incorporate rest periods
Heart conditions, e.g. angina
  • Chest pain
  • Reduced stamina
  • Fatigue
  • Breathlessness
  • Difficult terrain
  • Worse on exertion
  • Cold conditions
  • Consider terrain and climate
  • Person should carry medication
  • Access to emergency services
  • Incorporate rest periods
Chronic fatigue syndrome (ME)
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Reduced stamina
  • Frequent absences
  • Arduous terrain
  • Strenuous work
  • Lengthy work sessions
  • May need to modify visits if terrain difficult or person unable to participate
  • Consider using additional transport
Mental health problems
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Aggression
  • Loss of familiar surroundings and friends
  • Travel anxiety
  • Shared room
  • Drugs and excessive alcohol
  • Student 'buddy' support
  • Select room mate carefully
  • Pre-visit discussion with counsellor
  • Mechanisms in place to allow early student return

In compiling the above tables the authors would wish to acknowledge the major role played by Joan Fletcher (Health & Welfare Unit, University of Plymouth) and by Ros Catlow (South West Regional Academic Centre, University of Plymouth). Our thanks to them both.

Page updated 14 December 2001

GDN pages maintained by Phil Gravestock