Epilepsy at School

posted in: TDEF Blog | 0

By: Riley Young

Photo from www.unsplash.com

Introduction


Epilepsy is the most common neurologic condition in children. Given that every child spends so
much time at school, it is important to ensure there are measures and strategies in place to
ensure a healthy learning environment for these children.


Informing the Teacher


According to Epilepsy Ontario, it is a good idea for parents to educate their child’s teacher and
other school officials about their child’s epilepsy. While not part of the healthcare team, teachers
and school officials still have a role to play in caring for a student with epilepsy and ensuring
their safety while at school. Providing information about epilepsy and how it affects your child in
particular, allows the teacher to provide adequate support. The amount of support provided by
the teacher will vary depending on the child’s age and stage of development, and the severity of
their epilepsy. However, at the very least, teachers should know how to recognize a seizure and
provide the proper first aid support for any child that experiences a seizure.


A knowledgeable teacher can also help provide your child with a healthy transition into the
classroom by facilitating peer interactions and educating other classmates on epilepsy.
Considering these children are at higher risk of psychosocial adjustment problems, this type of
support can benefit the child’s perception of their condition, while also changing the attitudes of
their classmates.

Ensuring a Child’s Safety at School


Once the teacher is informed about your child’s epilepsy, there are a few more measures that
should be put in place to protect your child at school. It may be important for example, to let the
teacher know of any medications your child needs to take during the school day. Even if
medicine is not given during the school day, it is still worthwhile mentioning that your child is
taking medication so they can watch out for side effects.
It may also be important to have school staff inform you about your child’s seizures during the
school day, as well as any unusual symptoms or behaviors observed, in order to better monitor
your child’s condition. This can be done with a logbook, for example.
The school should also have a Seizure Action Plan in place in case your child experiences a
seizure while at school.

The plan should include:


● What to do when a seizure occurs


● When to call you


● If and when to call an ambulance


The plan should be created by you and your child, in collaboration with your child’s doctor and
healthcare team.


Example of a Seizure Action Plan:


https://www.epilepsy.com/sites/core/files/atoms/files/GENERAL%20Seizure%20Action%20Plan
%202020-April7_FILLABLE.pdf


Learning Difficulties for Children with Epilepsy


Children with epilepsy are at a higher risk of experiencing learning difficulties, with around 25%
of patients having some form of learning disorder. This can take many different forms, such as
attention problems, difficulty with memory or problem-solving tasks, and other cognitive
weaknesses.


Outside of diagnosed learning difficulties, children with epilepsy may be prone to other forms of
learning challenges. For one, seizure medication side effects can negatively impact thinking
speed and cognition. A child’s seizures may also affect their sleep and coincidentally their focus
during school.


Thankfully, many children with epilepsy can get accommodations for their learning, also known
as an Independent Learning Plan (IEP). It is important to communicate concerns about your
child’s learning to school staff and their neurologist to determine if an IEP is necessary. The first
step in obtaining an IEP is usually a neuropsychological exam.


A neuropsychological exam helps doctors, school staff, and parents understand their child’s
strengths and weaknesses in a learning environment. The exam involves a parent interview to
learn more about their child, followed by a test performed by the child to measure their memory,
processing speed, attention, intelligence, and other skills. Following the results, the
neuropsychologist will make a report that focuses on recommendations for your child’s learning.

The report may include:


● Information about whether your child has a diagnosis of a learning, attention, cognitive,
or other mental health disorder

● Suggestions for school about what types of extra support might be considered

● Suggestions for caring for your child at home

● Recommendations such as considerations for medication, counseling, additional
therapies, or helpful community resources.

General Notes for Teachers


Lastly, I would like to highlight an epilepsy guide for teachers that was developed by the
Edmonton Epilepsy Association:

https://www.edmontonepilepsy.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/documents/Epilepsy%20-%20A
%20Guide%20For%20Teachers.pdf


Conclusion


Epilepsy is a condition that many children have to manage while at school. However, by
informing teachers about your child’s epilepsy, they can facilitate healthy peer interactions and
provide adequate support for your child. It is most important that teachers can recognize a
seizure and provide the appropriate first aid. Additionally, it is also important to highlight any
medication that needs to be taken during the school day, and any unusual behaviors or
symptoms to look out for. Furthermore, children with epilepsy are more prone to acquiring
learning disorders, and a consultation with a neuropsychologist may be necessary to develop an
IEP for your child. By taking these measures as a parent, you can ensure that your child’s
epilepsy is well managed, allowing them to thrive in a school environment.


References


Aaberg, K. M., Gunnes, N., Bakken, I. J., Lund Søraas, C., Berntsen, A., Magnus, P.,
Lossius, M. I., Stoltenberg, C., Chin, R., & Surén, P. (2017). Incidence and Prevalence
of Childhood Epilepsy: A Nationwide Cohort Study. Pediatrics, 139(5), e20163908.
https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2016-3908

Beghi, M., Cornaggia, C. M., Frigeni, B., & Beghi, E. (2006). Learning Disorders in
Epilepsy. Epilepsia, 47(s2), 14–18. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1528-1167.2006.00681.x

CDC. (2019). Epilepsy. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/npao/epilepsy.htm

Epilepsy Ontario. (n.d.). School life for children with epilepsy.
https://epilepsyontario.org/school-life-for-children-with-epilepsy/

McNally, K. (2017). Epilepsy and Learning Disabilities: Helping Children at School.
https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/family-resources-education/700childrens/2017/03
/epilepsy-and-learning-disabilities-helping-children-at-school

Pastor, P. N., Reuben, C. A., Kobau, R., Helmers, S. L., & Lukacs, S. (2015). Functional
difficulties and school limitations of children with epilepsy: Findings from the
2009–2010 National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs. Disability
and Health Journal, 8(2), 231–239. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dhjo.2014.09.002

Russ, S. A., Larson, K., & Halfon, N. (2012). A National Profile of Childhood Epilepsy and
Seizure Disorder. PEDIATRICS, 129(2), 256–264.
https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2010-1371

SickKids Staff. (2010). Epilepsy at school.
https://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/article?contentid=2116&language=english

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