Back to School for Kids with Epilepsy
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that can affect people of any age–including kids–and is diagnosed when an individual has two or more seizures that have no other determinable medical cause. The nervous system is responsible for controlling the “electricity” in our bodies that allows our nerves to control our muscle movements, in everything from our biggest skeletal muscles, to the small muscles inside many organs. When a seizure occurs, the electrical impulses going to these muscles get mixed up–causing a variety of problems depending on the type of seizures a person has.
Parents will be the most familiar with their child’s type of seizures, frequency, treatment and necessary care following a seizure. Seizure disorders can also affect a child’s learning [for instance, absence seizures can occur many times a day, and simply may look like a child is daydreaming–however, except for in atypical absence seizures, most of the time a person’s attention cannot be gained when they are having an absence seizure–since absence seizures can occur multiple times per day, AND last up to 30 seconds, this could mean a lot of missed instructional time in school. For children who experience other types of seizures and have well-controlled epilepsy, they may only have seizures once in awhile–these could include a sudden drop to the floor, generalized jerking/shaking movements in the body, and may or may not be followed by tiredness.
Children with epilepsy should have an Epilepsy Action Plan in place at school (see a sample here). Parents should ensure epilepsy medication is administered on time and that emergency medication (i.e. Diastat or other methods, such as tablets placed under the tongue, nasal sprays, etc.), is available at all times–there are often problems ensuring a school will administer these medications, so ensuring a concrete plan is in place is crucial–this includes following an Epilepsy Action Plan, calling 911 when a seizure lasts a predetermined amount of time [usually 5 minutes, which indicates a medical emergency known as “status epilepticus”] or when a child does not become coherent within a certain amount of time following a seizure, administration of daily or emergency medications if needed, and how to protect the child from injury and provide care during and after a seizure. Seizures can often look scary, but as long as proper steps are taken to ensure a safe environment and, if needed, prompt medical care is sought, seizures are seldom life-threatening. If the child is comfortable, it may be helpful for parents to educate the child’s classmates about epilepsy in case the child has a seizure at school–using picture books may be helpful to help friends understand and help a child with epilepsy feel less alone.
Like any medical condition, taking epilepsy to school can be scary for both children, parents and educators–but, by preparing everybody involved, some anxiety can be relieved, allowing kids with epilepsy to be kids first.
For more information on epilepsy at school, visit:
Seizure Preparedness Plan for Back to School (Diastat)
Epilepsy.com – Epilepsy Foundation
Written by Kerri MacKay : )