Centre for Accessibility Services

Multiple sclerosis

What is multiple sclerosis (MS)?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that impacts the central nervous system including the brain and spinal cord. The disease attacks the protective covering of the nerves, which can have lasting impacts such as inflammation and/or nerve damage. MS is considered unpredictable and can impact a person at any age, but is most often diagnosed with young adults between theages of 20 and 49. The causes of multiple sclerosis are unknown, however, contributing factors may include environment, genetics, lifestyle and biological factors. There are many ways to support the effects of MS including therapies, exercise programs, and medicinal treatments.

Symptoms & common characteristics

  • Balance/dizziness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Pain
  • Sensory impairment – numbness, tingling
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Paroxysmal symptoms
  • Tremors
  • Optic neuritis - sudden onset of visual blurring or loss of vision in one eye
  • Spasticity
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Depression

Centre for Accessibility support for multiple sclerosis (MS) may include

  • Assistive technology
  • Note-taking services
  • Preferential seating in class
  • Alternate format materials (texts in PDF/E-text)
  • Time accommodation for exams
  • Separate setting/distraction reduced setting for exams

Statistics

  • Canada has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis (MS) in the world, with an estimated 1 in every 385 Canadians living with the disease.
  • MS is much more common in females than males, happening about 3 times more in women than in men. This is also true for other autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis.
  • We know that MS is more common among people in Europe, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and sections of Australia and less common among people in Asia and the tropics. Within regions with temperate climates, cases of MS increase in incidence and prevalence farther from the equator (or in higher latitudes).
  • Symptoms vary a great deal from one person to another. No two people have the same combination of symptoms. This, of course, complicates identification and diagnosis.

Sources

MultipleSclerosis.net

MS Society of Canada 

Tips and tools for supporting students with multiple sclerosis

  • Provide a detailed syllabus with clear identifiers of your contact information, office hours/drop-in hours, course objectives, deadlines for assignments/projects, and exam dates.
  • Arrange to meet with the student to discuss specific learning needs, and strategies for success.
  • Allow for students to talk to you about their disability, their needs, and related accommodations.
  • Provide an opportunity for draft submissions of projects and/or assignments; allowing students to check their work and ensure they are on track.
  • Willingness to be flexible with regards to assignment deadlines, as it may take the student longer to complete the work.
  • Willingness to be flexible with attendance, as the disability may result in the student needing to stay home from class.
  • Consult with Centre for Accessibility at UFV to obtain help in understanding the specific nature of the impacts of the disability.
  • If you are concerned about a student and are unsure whether to intervene, seek supports from CAS or Student Services on campus.

Resources and websites

Mayo Clinic 

MS Society of Canada 

Healthline 

Multiple sclerosis: just the facts

Students with MS & the academic setting

How to manage multiple sclerosis (MS) as a student

Fatigue: If you are struggling with fatigue you may find it helpful to create a schedule that supports your school and personal needs. If you have more energy at a certain time of day, plan your most difficult tasks for this time. Make sure to include rest periods. Use this time to fully rest, not read or watch TV. Prioritize what needs to be done and let other things go and try not to do it all. Breaking down larger tasks into smaller tasks will give you a chance to rest while you work. 

Self-care planning: Staying organized and creating a self-care plan that can model positive self-care strategies ensures you are taking care of yourself amongst the stressors of post-secondary life.

Daily routine: To ensure that you are successful in your time at university, creating a routine that provides you with enough sleep, healthy eating and regular exercise can be beneficial to your overall health. A proper routine will decrease or eliminate the symptoms of your disability and allow you to maintain good mental, emotional and physical health.

Assistive technology: There are a variety of devices that can support your ability to learn. Some of these supports include digital recorders, note-taking services, laptops, alternate format textbooks, speech to text/text to speech, etc. If you require support through technology to assist your learning environment, talk to your accessibility advisor about your challenges so they can help you explore the various supports available.

Physical design: Consider the classroom seating layout to decipher what works best for you especially for videos and demonstrations. If the symptoms of your disability(ies) require you to take breaks or access the washroom ensure you sit near an exit. If you require further assistance with seating, your accessibility advisor can help situate classroom set-up.

Alternate format: Consider your needs around alternate format course materials and place your request immediately following your registration for your classes. Your accessibility advisor can submit your requests immediately to ensure you are prepared for class.

Lack of attention/focus: It may take longer to do things now. Take breaks and rest as needed. Try to focus on one thing at a time rather than multi-tasking. Reduce distractions by working in an uncluttered area and wear ear-plugs to block out sounds that may be pulling your focus.

Notes/textbook support: Highlight important information from your notes and textbook. Having color-coded binders for each class, clear labels and highlighting important dates can help. Use different colors to link facts, theories and important items. Review/ rewrite your class notes within 24 hours, as the more exposure you have to the material the easier it will be to remember.

Memory tools: Make use of flashcards or mind mapping tools to help learn and embed new vocabulary, facts or information. Flashcards can help with storing information into long term memory. As you practice, remove the cards you know well and focus on the ones you need to learn.

Studying for tests: Studying often seems like a daunting task, however, if you add color, context and a variety of tools, it can make it a more enjoyable task. Last-minute studying can cause panic or stress. To avoid this, start studying with ample time (a week) in advance. Frequent 20-minute intervals with short breaks in-between can allow you to keep focus and manage the symptoms of your disability. Re-word information into your own words for better understanding. Ask a friend or family member to test your knowledge, or join study groups. If possible, ask the instructor if there are any "old tests" you can review for study purposes.

Resources and websites

Mayo Clinic

MS Society of Canada 

Healthline

Multiple sclerosis: just the facts

Students with MS & the academic setting

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