Q: How will epilepsy affect a student’s school performance?
A: A teachers survey indicated that children with epilepsy may have twice as many problems such as lack of concentration, restlessness, and fidgeting difficulties. Some children with left temporal lobe foci have trouble remembering things, which makes it hard to remember spelling rules. Math problems usually are apparent by the time the child is in grade three. Learning disabilities occur in an estimated 5-50% of children with epilepsy. Seizure type is an important risk factor with most effects on cognitive functions coming from tonic clonic
and complex partial seizures.
Things that may affect the child’s learning are:
- medications that prevent seizures
- unrecognized seizure activity in the brain may be interfering with attention
- underlying conditions in the brain that are interfering with learning, memory or the way the brain handles information. This may only happen in some young people with epilepsy. Many students with epilepsy do well in school without any of these difficulties.
Students with epilepsy exhibit the same range of intelligence and ability as other students. If the student has absence seizures quite often during class time, they may be missing out on important information. This may cause difficulties for the student, and it is important that someone takes the time with them to catch up on what they have missed. Learning disabilities may be more common in children who have epilepsy, for three reasons: 1) frequent seizures; 2) anti-epileptic drugs (AED’s); 3) underlying brain damage.
Q: Does epilepsy affect a child’s behaviour at school?
A: No, epilepsy itself does not affect a child’s behaviour. However, sometimes problem behaviour will result from side effects due to medications, parental overprotection or over indulgence, or difficulties in school. Depression is also very common in people with epilepsy. This may be due to medications, and/or social factors. It is important that the teacher treats and disciplines the student with epilepsy in the same manner as all the other students.
Q: What about physical activities? Are there things that children with epilepsy should/should not do?
A: Children who have epilepsy can participate in the same activities as any other children. Daily physical activity and involvement in team/group sports increase self-esteem, independence and overall quality of life for all children. Care must be taken to protect all children from head injuries (e.g. wearing a helmet for batting, cycling, etc.). Children with epilepsy who are involved in swimming activities should swim only under supervision (just as any other child!). The lifeguard or instructor at the swimming facility should be made aware that the student has epilepsy before they enter the pool. Serious injuries in children with epilepsy are uncommon and rarely occur during participation in sports. Bathroom floors or school hallways can be much more dangerous than ice skating, hockey, or
Q: Do I need to change my classroom or lessons for a student with epilepsy?
A: No, teachers do not need to make any drastic changes to their lessons or their classrooms. However, there are a number of things a teacher can do to help a student with epilepsy to feel more comfortable and at ease in the classroom.
- If the student is prone to tonic-clonic seizures, have their desk situated so that if they fall, there is plenty of room for the seizure to run its course.
- Hang a poster in the room or at a central location in the school that lists the important first aid steps to help someone who is having a seizure.
- Have a buddy system in place so that students are never alone in the bathrooms or hallways. It is important that everyone in the class has a buddy, so that the child with epilepsy does not feel that they are receiving special treatment or that they are the only ones who can not go anywhere alone.
- At the beginning of the year, lead a discussion with your class about respecting each other’s differences.
- Have a question and answer period with your students about epilepsy (see Appendix, “ Some Questions Kids Ask”) . This will help dispel myths and calm some of the fears they may have.
- Invite the Kids on the Block (puppet show) to visit your class and/or your school.
Q: Does the child require medication at school?
A: The child may require medication depending on his/her individual Medical Safety Plan. Please follow all Board Policies related to the Administration of Medication (AP 314).
Q: How should a child with a seizure disorder be identified by staff.
A: If the child has a tonic clonic seizure disorder (grand mal), or the potential for that condition, they should be identified as part of any school procedure for Emergency Alert Form (AP 314).
Q: What can a parent do to establish adequate communication regarding their child’s seizures?
The Parents' Contribution
General Information about Epilepsy – Many teachers and administrators have never seen a seizure and may be uncomfortable about dealing with a child who has them. Parents should make sure that the school gets information about epilepsy, first aid, seizure types, and the possible effects of anticonvulsant medication. If you wish, your local epilepsy organization can contact the school for you and provide this information. If seizures are not well controlled, it may be a good idea to educate the other children in the class. Many epilepsy organizations can provide Kids on the Block, a puppet show designed to educate gradeschoolers about epilepsy.
Specific Information about Your Child – Parents will want to provide the school with specific information about their child. This should include: the type of seizures, a description of the seizures, warning signs (if any), procedures to follow during seizures, medications taken by the child, side effects of the medications and/or seizure’s, the name of your doctor, and triggers for your child’s seizures (strobe lights). The school will need your permission to share pertinent information with the appropriate personnel.