What do you wish teachers knew about your chronic illness?


I was a high school English teacher before a severe lupus (a chronic autoimmune disease) flare took me down. Now I help students and their teachers understand each other and find useful strategies in the classroom.

If you are (or have) a student who deals with chronic illness, I want to hear from you!

  • When I go and speak with teachers about this topic, what do you want me to tell them?
  • What do you wish teachers knew about you, your illness, and your day-to-day life?

Go on, post your answers in the Leave a Reply section below.

This is not a place for teacher bashing. After all, I AM a teacher one, so play nice. Trust me as both a teacher and a fellow CI fighter, (most) teachers really want to know so they can help you.

If a public post makes you uncomfortable, send me an email at theblandau @ gmail . com (no spaces).

Thank you!

10 Comments on “What do you wish teachers knew about your chronic illness?

  1. I want my teachers to know that I hate asking for extensions but there are some days or weeks that lupus gets the best of me and I simply can’t do the work. Also its embarrassing to me that I have to ask for extensions because I feel like I should be able to do the work just like everybody else.


    • I think this is important for teachers to know. If I may offer some advice: Try to kick that “should” out of your head. It’s a judgmental way to think about what you can and can’t do. Self-care starts with you not beating yourself up for something you cannot control. 🙂


  2. My son missed a major chunk of a semester in high school–the equivalent of a full quarter. He dragged himself in for finals. He aced every cotton-picking one except Spanish (which was pretty much expected). All the teachers but one docked him for missed homework. Bless the math teacher who said, “Why should he be penalized for missing homework when he couldn’t be here? He has proved he has a thorough mastery of the subject?” His only A.


    • I’m sorry your son (and you) went through this. I had a similar experience from the teacher’s perspective. When I address teachers, I encourage them to look at the big picture, not the grade book as an item-by-item checklist. Thank you for your feedback!


  3. I suffer from daily chronic migraines.
    Here’s the most important thing I want teachers to know:

    I hate missing class more than you hate me missing class. Missing class is stressful because I might have missed very important material or the explanation of a complex project/assignment. Stress is a huge migraine trigger. Lots of days, I take a handful of pills that would make you uncomfortable. One for the head pain, one for the nausea, one for the dizziness, one for the stomach problems, and one for the fever, all downed with a bottle of Coke. You think it’s disrespectful for me to not show up to class, so I have to be horribly disrespectful to my liver. And when all those pills still don’t work, when I can’t stop throwing up long enough to get ready, when I can’t even get to the bathroom in the morning because I can barely see, when I literally can’t get out of bed because my body is so weak, I cannot take the stress of worrying about whether or not you’re going to be kind enough to email me what I missed. If you read the class a PowerPoint and showed them a video, please, just send them to me. If you had the class read out of the textbook, please, just tell me which pages. If you gave a lecture, please, find I time to meet with me to just give me a 5 minute overview. I understand my grades won’t be as good if I miss too much class, and I’m not asking for extra points on the test. All I want is access to the material that everyone else in the class got access to. Is that so unreasonable?


    • Dani, your comment is an example of the kind of communication that helps students and teachers understand each other. It’s honest, addresses your needs/wants, and explains why you thing these needs/wants are appropriate. Keep in mind that we teachers cannot know and take appropriate action if we do not know how our students’ experience their illnesses. It’s something I wish I’d been better at while I was still in the classroom.

      One thing. I’d perhaps explain the use of Coke. With your migraine and stomach issues, I imagine the Coke syrup helps with nausea and the caffeine helps with headaches, but to ordinary folk, it sounds like just a bad nutritional choice. 🙂


  4. Seconding the hating to ask for extensions thing. It’s difficult and humiliating, and there’s a threat you’ll completely invalidate my illness and make me feel terrible for the rest of the day. If I’m asking for one, believe me, I need it. So stop asking me to justify it, or suggesting I need only one extra day if I ask for three. Because my accommodations state I get reasonable time, and asking me to do something when I’m too sick to spell my name is not an accurate test of my abilities. Which is the entire point of school and tests.

    Just, in general, try to focus on the big picture. Don’t compare me to other people in the class, say “oh but I only gave them five days” because I probably only had a few usable hours those 5 days while they had 18. Actually, I’ve been giving a fifth of the time. So ask whether or not I’m learning, whether I’m doing the activities. The accommodations are not unfair. The accommodations make it slightly more fair for me, but never enough.


    • When teachers ask chronically ill students to justify extensions, it’s often because they don’t understand what it’s like for you day-to-day. It’s tricky to get those accommodations right. They can’t be too specific or too vague due to the unpredictable nature of your illness and of life, in general. Again, it comes down to helping teachers understand (and teachers working to understand) a student’s specific experience. Once that happens, both parties will feel comfortable making adjustments as you go. Thank you for sharing!


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