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Attending College as a Zebra: Tips for Success


Having recently graduated, there were things my teachers did to accommodate my heath as it rapidly declined and I was coming to a point prior to my diagnosis of my general hypermobility spectrum disorder. Knowing there are other zebras out there (those diagnosed with EDS and HSD), I thought I might share what I found made it easier for me.

When you are there:

1. Never forget water. It is easy to refill at a water fountain. If you are prone to dehydration or problems with dizziness from the comorbidity POTS, it is important to have constant access. It is also needed to take medication.

2. Bring extra meds. Make sure you have your medication in a small pill box for emergencies. Keep a spare ACE Bandage for emergency sublux or dislocation support.

3. Have some sort of snack on you. Roasted peanuts, something that won’t turn to mush or go bad. You may have meds that require food or need salt to bring up blood pressure.

4. Wear layers in all seasons. It is important to be comfortable. Since EDSers are often overly sensitive to hot and cold and/or cannot regulate body temperatures, it is good to have layers that accommodate hot and cool weather.

5. If you are using mobility aides that day that require more room or access, notify your instructor that morning.

When you are not present:

1. Be certain to have communicated an ADA with your college and have clear parameters put in place in accordance with your needs, and the make note of the instructor’s willingness to work with you from the beginning. If there are issues, don’t wait to communicate them to the proper personnel after an attempt to communicate them professionally with the instructor. Email is a good choice because you can gauge your words and retain a record that is automatically dated and timestamped.

2. Ask if when you’re unable to be physically present, if you can be present from home via teleconference or Skype. Be available and prepared on time.

3. If this isn’t possible, ask if the instructor can request a specific student in the class, present and attentive that day, to contact you and send notes as well as answer questions you may have for that day.

4. Always be certain to email your instructor as soon as you know you will not be present, and turn in all assignments, or if you’re missing an in-class presentation, make arrangements to present upon your return and send a hard copy the day due.

These are things that will allow you to focus more on your class and less on your chronic illness(es). If you are proactive, it makes it easier to focus on being a success!

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Photo by Alex Iby, via Unsplash


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