Epilepsy In Student
The potential to achieve at school and in life is not limited by epilepsy. The advances in treatment mean more and more youth can live normal lives. However, youngsters with epilepsy do face unique situations at school and teachers, principals, counsellors must take appropriate action in order to assure the student's development.
1. Helpful tips for student going to college (based on real-live experience)
2. For teachers and parents (useful info from Epilepsy Ontario)
3. EAES School Alert Epilepsy Education Program
Situations Faced by Students
Epilepsy is no deterrent to high achievement. Students with epilepsy test within the normal range of intelligence. However, it is not uncommon that many achieve below their expected level. Thus, before concluding that a student is lazy, consider the following:
1. Medication Side Effects
- some medications cause tiredness, thus increasing a student's response time on timed tests
- some medications may slow cognitive/speech process
- sometimes adjustments in medications is required which can cause lethargy, mood swings and feelings of discomfort
- due to treatment, tests, hospitalization in previous years may have resulted in missing some basic skills necessary for later work
- on-going testing may also result in missed schooling
3. Problems related to the portion of the brain where the seizure activity originates
- example, when the seizure area is in the brain's left temporal lobe, language and verbal skills may be affected when seizures originate in the right side, recognition of shapes and patterns may be affected
- absence seizures, which last only seconds, may occur at a critical time when, for instance, a key instruction is being presented
- neuropsychological testing may identify some of these areas
4. Time of Diagnosis
- recently diagnosed students may show decreased performance
- this may be due to emotional impact as well as therapy
- it takes awhile before appropriate medication levels and type are arrived at
- upon stabilization, performance usually improves
- if the student has had it for a long time, she may have been over-protected and thus never developed confidence in herself
- sometimes seizures are used as a threat to get out of work, chores, etc. at home and school
- hostility may be exhibited towards others to prevent name-calling; this results in a reduction in social interaction and further reduction in self-esteem
- some medications may slow speech, cause pimples, or alter gum tissues, thus setting him further apart from other students
- much public misunderstanding about epilepsy exists and the teenager is faced with this
A distinction must be made between seizure-related behaviour and non-related behaviour. For example, complex partial seizures exhibit behaviours that resemble deliberate acting out. Although appearing conscious, the student is not, but is rather on "auto-pilot," walking around, possibly mumbling, shouting, banging tables or any other variety of behaviours.
Comprehension of directions from teachers or other students may not be present. Or a student may respond to her name being called but doesn't know where she is or what she's doing. This type of behaviour can be mistaken for deliberate provocation or even drug/alcohol abuse.
If someone is grabbed suddenly during such a seizure, the possibility exists that she may strike out. It is important to note that this is a reflex action and not a deliberate act of violence.
Some behaviours may be a side effect of the epilepsy. In a newly diagnosed student, anger and grief at what has just happened may result in a hostile individual with a short temper. On the other hand, a sense of isolation and low self esteem may be found in the student who's had epilepsy for many years - they may have been ridiculed, have had activities curtailed, been overly protected, or been labelled.
It must also be remembered that while youth with epilepsy can have some unique behaviours, they also exhibit behaviours associated with childhood development. Care must be taken not to assume that a behaviour problem is just another type of seizure. Doing so might delay proper counselling for the affected individual.
There is no reason that students with epilepsy should be uniformly excluded from activities such as driver's education, physical education, sports teams, industrial arts, etc.
Common sense should dictate participation; attention should be paid to:
- degree of seizure control
- type of seizure
- presence of an aura (a warning sign that some people get prior to the onset of a seizure)
- personal interests
Some experts feel that the risk of physical injury is secondary to the psychological hurt that might result if a student's heart is set on participating in an activity and is told he or she cannot because of epilepsy.
(E) Vocational Planning
- planning should incorporate a common sense approach as well
- in most provinces it is against the law to discriminate against people with epilepsy
- many people with epilepsy go on to have successful careers in industry, media, politics, pro sports, etc.
How can the school help?
- increase knowledge about epilepsy among staff and students
- recognize individual differences in seizures, students, effects
- assist students in dealing with physical/social problems
- communicate with parents to understand the nature and personality of the student with epilepsy
- increase acceptance of epilepsy as a condition that in most instances occupies a minute part of the person's life
- contact your local epilepsy association for resources or further information.