Strategies in working with students who have Chronic Medical Disorders:

  • Some student have disabilities which affect their health – compromised immune systems, reduced breathing capacity or endurance, seizure disorders, cancer, heart or other circulatory problems, chronic fatigue syndrome – the list is varied and covers all ages of our student population. On occasion, the student may need to miss class for what would normally be an unacceptable amount of time. The student should not be so sick that they cannot attend on a regular basis. If that is the case, Empire State College may be a better setting. If this is an infrequent occurrence, though, it is the faculty’s discretion how to proceed: how much time can be made up? Is there an online component? What type of class is it? Is interaction with peers and demonstration before the group required as part of the grading rubric? What universal precaution standards need to be set up? What safety factors need to be evaluated for the class or lab?

  • A reduced load may prevent the medical situation from flaring up. When advising students who have disclosed their illnesses, do not assume they can take 15 credits each semester. They may be only able to attend part-time.

  • If a student is absent due to the medical emergency, it is a good idea to ask a student in the class to share notes with the student if the faculty does not have online notes. That way, the student can review the notes from the peer, read and review the text, and pose questions that will help to catch up on unfamiliar work so that the student can proceed to finish the semester. Most notetakers are told not to share notes with a student if the student needing the notes misses the class – this is the opposite of that advice.

  • One of the technological options may be to see if the student can “attend” class via conference call. If there is a phone jack in the classroom, the student dials in on a pre-arranged number and can listen and participate from the site he/she is in. We have used this in seminars when students were well enough to listen, but they could not be on campus, in the classroom, that day. Medical personnel would have to approve it if the student was in a hospital. We have had some good experiences with this: A student who was in an isolation ward due to chemotherapy completed a graduate class that way and the class was glad to have her “there” with them. When she was well enough to attend, it was much easier on her to regain the group dynamics that were part of the seminar.