Parents of Children with Epilepsy
In addition to efforts to care for and manage a child’s seizures, parents of children with epilepsy often express concerns about the child’s safety, learning, and social interaction at school. Having seizures at school can be socially damaging to a child and frightening to others. However, it doesn’t have to be. A well-informed, confident teacher and a supportive school nurse and school administration can make all the difference in the world.
There are several steps parents can take to create a more accepting school environment for a child.
First, take time to meet with your child’s teacher before the beginning of each school year to discuss how epilepsy affects your child, what type of seizures he or she has, and how you would like the teacher to handle the seizures when they occur. As seizures are a common problem, many teachers will have had other students with epilepsy.
If your child’s teacher is unfamiliar with seizures and needs information, please contact us at the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Los Angeles. We provide Seizure Recognition and First Aid Trainings and Epilepsy Presentations for teachers, nurses, other employees and adminstrators. We also provide videos and informational pamphlets that resound with the message that students with seizures belong in school and are in no way any kind of threat to other children. With information, reassurance, and plenty of opportunities to ask questions, other children can also learn to take seizures in stride and continue to accept the child who has them.
While many children with epilepsy test within the same range as other children, their achievement at school may be lower. There may be several reasons, including side effects from the medication, days spent out of school for tests or doctor visits, and anxiety about having seizures at school. Memory or attention may also be affected.
One boy told his mother, despairingly, “Mom, I study and I know the words and I know it all and then, suddenly, it all goes away and I can’t remember any of it. I try to hold on to it, but it goes away.” After a seizure a child may be unable to remember anything that happened the previous day or immediately afterwards. Testing for learning disabilities may reveal specific difficulties related to where the seizures are occurring in the child’s brain.
Some children with epilepsy will need specialized planning, with goals and objectives carefully spelled out, developed in partnership between the parent and the school. School activities should be open to all children, including children with seizures. Various federal laws (Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act) and state laws protect children with disabilities from discrimination on the basis of disability.
A seizure that ends normally after a minute or two is usually not hazardous to a child who has epilepsy. However, risks increase when the seizure happens near water, at heights, near traffic, or in any setting in which sudden loss of awareness could be dangerous.
Parents naturally want to protect a child who has this extra level of risk on top of all the other risks that accompany a normal childhood. However, excessive concern about risk may isolate children with epilepsy from others and reduce social interaction. Unless your child’s doctor recommends otherwise, taking inclusive, precautionary risk-reducing measures while still allowing children to partake in the same physical activities that are beneficial to all children alike will help strike a healthy balance:
– What Teachers Need to Know (PDF)
– Seizure Observation Record (PDF)
– Seizure Action Plan (PDF)
– Parent Questionnaire (PDF)
– Legal Rights in School & Childcare (PDF)
– Parent Training & Information Centers (PDF)
Visit The BAS Resource Center to access documents: