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Cataplexy is the sudden loss of voluntary muscle tone or temporary paralysis that is often triggered by extreme emotion, such as laughter or fear. Cataplexy by itself is considered a rare disease. Most episodes are short in duration, lasting a few seconds up to five minutes. These episodes tend to have few, if any, residual effects. Some people with narcolepsy can have cataplectic attacks almost daily, while there are some people with narcolepsy that have never experienced cataplexy.

During a cataplectic attack the person will remain conscious; however, the person may experience jaw dropping, which can cause speech limitations, or eyelids drooping, which can interfere with vision. Other symptoms may include balance issues, upper extremity weakness, and/or collapsing.

While a cataplectic attack is usually very short in duration and leaves no residual effects, there may be symptoms that would require workplace accommodations. Some of the most common limitations stemming from a cataplectic attack are weakened speech, vision issues, trouble balancing, upper extremity weakness, and/or collapsing.

Accommodating Employees with Cataplexy

People with cataplexy may develop some of the limitations discussed below, but seldom develop all of them. Also, the degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all people with cataplexy will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. The following articles provide additional information and accommodation solutions.

Note: Link to AskJAN and EveryDay Health for more information and publications regarding Cataplexy

What are employers' responsibilities?

Be aware that not all people with cataplexy will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. Cataplexy can affect balancing, handling and fingering, stress intolerance, walking and weak speech to name a few compromising conditions. The devices listed below are available to borrow for a 6-week free trial from Oklahoma ABLE Tech.

Scissors – Fingers-Free Snips
Large-Print Bluetooth Keyboard
Magic Arm Mounting System
Ergonomic T-Foam Seat Cushion
Ergonomic OBUS Seat Pad
Soft Transfer Swivel Cushion (use in car or home)
Uplift Power Seat
Wheelchair Desk
Solutions for Decreased Stamina/Fatigue

Call Oklahoma ABLE Tech (800-257-1705) for accommodation ideas or to borrow assistive technology. ABLE Tech’s AT Device Demonstration and Short-Term Loan Program works just like a book library.

Search Oklahoma ABLE Tech’s resources for reused AT and durable medical equipment*
including free and low cost items.
* where, for this particular illness, you could borrow a motorized wheelchair, if available

Need funding to assist in the purchase of assistive devices? Oklahoma ABLE Tech offers a comprehensive online guide for Oklahoma Funding for AT. Additionally, ABLE Tech, in partnership with Oklahoma Assistive Technology Foundation (OkAT) and BancFirst of Stillwater, offers Financial Loans to purchase assistive technology. Several programs of funding are available, all with LOW interest rate and flexible repayment terms, as well as special qualification opportunities for applicants who might not qualify for a traditional bank loan. For questions on the Financial Loan opportunities, call Shelley Gladden for more information at 800-257-1705.

Rob Carr, ICT Accessibility Program Manager

Oklahoma ABLE Tech

Oklahoma State University

1514 W. Hall of Fame

Stillwater, OK 74078

Phone: 800.257.1705


Linda Jaco, Associate Director for Sponsored Programs

Department of Wellness

Oklahoma State University

1514 W. Hall of Fame,

Stillwater, OK 74078

Phone: 800.257.1705


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