Wednesday, February 20, 2008

accommodation story highlights misunderstanding of migraines

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One of the most often reported migraine news stories of the past couple of weeks relates to a unique accommodation made by an employer in Sweden.

A school prohibited children from wearing stripes or dots on their clothing because the patterns trigger a teacher's migraines. The policy worked well for a time, but a parent recently complained about it.

Swedish preschool banned patterned clothing to ease teacher's migraines
Norberg said the ban was imposed after a staff meeting three years ago. The teacher had complained about recurring migraine attacks when working with children wearing spotted or striped patterns.

"And so the (preschool) staff urged parents to dress their children in one-colored clothing," Norberg said.

Some researchers claim that striped, spotted or even checkered patterns can cause migraines since they affect the brain and the eye's visual impressions.

"They project a certain light and can be very disturbing," said Professor Lars Forsgren at Umea University.

Anita Israelsson, a spokeswoman at the Swedish Work Environment Authority, said the clothing ban, since it deals with people's work environment, does not violate Swedish law and is usually handled by individual workplaces.

I am encouraged to know that people do sometimes get the accommodations they need in the workplace. I had such a bad experience with my request for accommodations at my last job that a story like this helps rebuild my hope that the process works for some people sometimes.

However, maybe I'm just being touchy, but the news accounts of this situation seem to border on poking fun at the teacher and the school for this arrangement. They question the assertion that patterns can trigger migraines despite expert support for this claim.

And what kind of jerks are the complaining parents that their ability and that of their children to flaunt their fashion sense is more important than a valued teacher's health? This hardly seems like a major sacrifice to protect someone's health.

Both issues seem typical of the misunderstanding surrounding migraines. If you think a migraine is just a bad headache you wouldn't understand why there is a real need for this rule. But we know that migraine disease is a neurological disorder and must be taken seriously. We also know how often migraines force people to miss work, impacting both the employer and the migraineur. Anything this reasonable that can prevent someone from having a migraine is completely appropriate.

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