Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological condition that influences how well the brain regulates sleep-wake cycles. It can cause excessive daytime sleepiness, episodes of irresistible sleepiness, and sleep paralysis.
In some cases, narcolepsy occurs with cataplexy, which causes sudden, temporary loss of muscle control.
People with narcolepsy wake up frequently during the night and have uneven and interrupted sleep patterns. They may feel tired during the day or involuntarily fall asleep during an activity. Often, these symptoms worsen when a person is inactive or concentrating, such as in a school setting.
Narcolepsy can influence a student’s daily life and impact their academics. Students with narcolepsy can request accommodations from their primary, secondary, and postsecondary schools.
Let’s cover accommodations for narcolepsy in college and how to get them.
You can receive accommodations for narcolepsy in college and university. While each school is different, you can decide which specific accommodations will be the most useful to help you manage your condition to succeed academically. Usually, the process involves applying for accommodations with the disability services center after receiving a note from a healthcare professional.
Colleges provide narcolepsy accommodations that can help you manage your symptoms. They help level the playing field and ensure you receive the best education possible. Below are some accommodations you may receive.
For note-taking assistance, you may be able to have someone take notes for you and check your notes to ensure you have all of the information. You may be able to use a recording device, which the school may provide, or receive copies of notes, lesson transcripts, and video or audio recordings of lectures.
Flexible class schedules
You can request priority registration to make sure your schedule suits your needs and works with your sleep schedule. If you usually feel tired in the morning, you may wish to avoid early morning classes. If you’re most alert in the morning, you can schedule difficult or demanding classes at this time. You can also schedule a midday break to take a nap or close your eyes and relax for a short time.
Even though it may take you longer to finish your degree, you may be able to take fewer classes each semester while maintaining your status as a full-time student.
Class breaks, tardies, and absences
If you’re unable to stay alert and awake during class, you may be allowed to leave class for short breaks. You can wake yourself up by getting fresh air, walking around, and drinking a beverage.
You can request excused tardies and absences when you oversleep or are too tired to attend class. You may be permitted extra or unlimited tardies and absences.
Time for nap breaks
You may schedule your classes to have enough time to take a nap between classes. Some colleges may provide a designated napping area.
Adjusted assignment deadlines
You may be able to request extensions for assignments.
Extra time for tests
Testing accommodations may grant extra time on tests or the ability to take a test in a designated area, such as the disability office. If possible, schedule tests when you are most alert and reschedule as necessary. Avoid scheduling several tests in a row.
If you get tired during tests, you may be able to take breaks. You may be allowed to stand while taking tests.
If it’s challenging to remain alert when you read, you may be able to request a highlighted textbook that allows you to focus on important information and reduce the amount of reading.
If you plan to live on campus, let the resident assistants on your floor know about your condition. Request a room with a bathroom. Decide if you prefer to live in a single or shared room.
If you are an educator, it’s important to learn more about narcolepsy and how it affects college students to provide a safe, supportive learning environment. It’s important to provide accommodations so all students have equal opportunities to learn.
Upon reviewing their accommodation letter, speak with students to learn how the condition affects them and which accommodations are most useful for this specific course. Establish open communication and check in throughout the school year to see how everything is going. Be sure to maintain their privacy and confidentiality.
You are responsible for disclosing your condition to your school so you can receive accommodations. It’s best to start the process as early as possible.
To request narcolepsy accommodations, you’ll usually need to provide documentation from a healthcare professional that confirms your diagnosis. It should also include which academic accommodations are necessary for your condition and your individual needs. Speak with your doctor ahead of time to discuss which accommodations would be most beneficial.
If you qualify, you’ll receive an official letter outlining which accommodations you’ve received. You have the option to get in touch with your teachers. You can email a letter to each teacher and request an in-person appointment.
To find out how to request accommodations, visit your school’s website or contact the disability center. If you are unsure about the correct procedure, get in touch with a counselor or admissions officer.
If you have narcolepsy, going to college can pose several challenges, though you can overcome them by managing your symptoms, maintaining a consistent schedule, and receiving accommodations. You must understand your rights and responsibilities to ensure all parties take your needs seriously and treat you fairly and respectfully.
Do your best to adapt to the situation and stay motivated as you move toward your goals. If possible, reach out to other students with narcolepsy by joining a support group. Find out if there are other students with narcolepsy at your college.
Narcolepsy can impact your daily and academic life, but you can still attend college and receive a quality education. Though it may take additional planning, it’s possible to accomplish your academic goals.
To receive accommodations for college, get in touch with your school’s disability center. Establish and maintain open communication with your professors and healthcare professionals so you can discuss challenges and successes throughout the semester. It will also be beneficial for you to develop good time management skills and stick to a sleep schedule.