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Supporting Children with Medical
and Mental Health Needs at School

 

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THINKING ABOUT UNIVERSITY

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Deciding what to do after school can seem daunting. If one of your options is going to university there are a few things you may want to think about alongside what and where you want to study. Managing a chronic health condition may mean considering a few additional things on top.

Here we give you a few suggestions of things you might want to ask before you apply as well as things you may need to do once you are offered a place.

What to Study

Like all potential university students, what you want to study will be dependent on your interests and potential future career. Depending on your health condition, you might want to consider if the course you are looking at involves:

  • Placements that involve travel to other countries. If so, you may want to look at how you will get medical support should you need it in other countries.
  • Work-based placements. Does your health condition require reasonable adjustments to ensure you can fully engage in all aspects of your course? Courses such as engineering, teaching, medicine, nursing, and other health disciplines usually have work-based placement. Many other courses also have options for a year placement between years 2 and 3.
  • Does the course you are applying for offer flexibility if you need to defer should you need time out for your health needs?
  • How is the course assessed? Exam based, course work, practical assessments. There should be options for reasonable adjustments, such as extra time in exams, but it is worth checking out before applying.

Where to Study

Part of going to university is about becoming more independent. Here are some things you might want to consider when deciding where to apply:

  • Where do I want to live? At home or away from home?
  • How far is the university from home? How long would it take to travel back home and what are the transport options?
  • Will I need to change some or all my medical care arrangements if I move to a different area? This might mean changing hospital consultants as well as your GP (doctor).
  • Is it feasible to travel/ manage appointments if I remain under the care of my current medical team?
  • How big is the university?
  • Is the university in a town/city or is it on a campus?
  • Would I need to travel between sites for my course? If so, what are the transport options?
  • What are the student support services like at the university? Can I talk to them before applying?
  • How accessible are the university clubs and societies? Is there information on the website?

Where to Live

If you decide you want to live away from home while at university here are some things you might want to check out when deciding which universities to apply to:

  • Most first year students choose to live in halls of residence. This way you get to live with other students, which can be an effective way to make friends.
  • Universities will have some rooms with specific adaptations. It is worth checking out what you need can be provided. You can usually call the accommodation office, who should be able to give you up to date information and advice on what is available.
  • Do you need an ensuite room. Check what is available. You can make specific requests; you may need to provide medical evidence.
  • Check out the accessibility of the accommodation block, so if you need to use a lift, check you can access things like the laundry or shared common rooms or gym facilities.
  • Is there a cleaning service available in halls of residence?
  • How far is the accommodation from lecture halls, labs, or other teaching areas? Check if there is transport if you think you might need it.
  • If you use a car, check what the arrangements are for parking.
  • Will you have enough time to get to early lectures if you have a morning treatment routine?

Support Services at University

All universities will have a designated student support service and it is worth checking it out before you apply. Not all student support services are organised in the same way. They may have different departments and staff may have different job titles depending on the university. Check the individual university website to see what information they provide. If you cannot find what you are looking for contact the service by phone or email. Here are some questions you might find helpful:

  • What services do you offer for students with.... (specify your needs/condition)
  • How do I know who to contact when I have accepted a place at the university to make sure I can get the support I need?
  • Can I get additional funding to pay for equipment/ software/ individual study support/ travel etc.
  • What services are available for mental health and wellbeing?
  • Does the university offer any additional bursaries or grants for students with disabilities?
  • What are the arrangements should I defer for a term, year, because of a deterioration in my health or a change in my specific needs?

Funding and Finance

Most people applying to university will apply for a student loan. There are two parts to this, a loan to cover tuition fees and a loan to cover living expenses. It is important to get information and advice on what student loans are available and when you need to apply.

In addition to student loans, you may also be entitled to Disabled Student Allowance (DSA). This is support to help with any extra essential costs you may have as a direct result of your disability, long-term health condition, mental health condition, or specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia. Find out more about DSA and how to apply.

Some universities may offer additional bursaries, grants, or support. Check the individual university website for contact details of the student support services department.

Sharing Information

Going to university is the start of a new chapter in your life. It is a time to meet new people, have new experiences and find out more about yourself as you become more independent.

It is also a time you may want to think about how much you want to share about your health condition. To get the support you need from student support services, you must provide some evidence. You will be told what is needed when you talk to them or apply.

However, you may also want to think about what to want to say or share with the new people you meet. This is entirely up to you. But by thinking ahead, you will have a chance to consider what you want to share or say. This in turn may help you feel more confident should you find yourself being asked questions or needing to miss things because of appointments or treatment.

Useful Links

UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, is an independent charity, and the UK's shared admissions service for higher education. https://www.ucas.com/

Disabled Students UK is the largest disabled student-led organisation in the UK. https://disabledstudents.co.uk/ 

Disability Rights UK is the UK’s leading organisation led by, run by, and working for Disabled people. https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/resources/applying-disabled-students%E2%80%99-allowance-dsa

Eloise writes about being at university with autism, and gives her advice on managing change, disclosure and making friends. https://www.studentmindsblog.co.uk/2018/09/how-to-succeed-at-university-with-autism.html

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HOPE (Hospital Organisation of Pedagogues in Europe)