Epilepsy Awareness: Facts and Figures

November is Epilepsy Awareness Month, and the Stride Professional Development Center wants to provide basic information for teachers and school leaders. The National Epilepsy Foundation (NEF) has graciously provided information that helps define epilepsy and shares figures to reveal its prevalence in schools.

Epilepsy, according to NEF, is a disorder of the brain that could have a variety of causes. Essentially, the brain produces sudden and abnormal bursts of electrical energy which, as a result, disrupts other brain functions leading to a seizure. These seizures could be convulsive and readily visible while others are non-convulsive and less obvious (e.g., a staring spell). Many people find ways to manage seizures through medication, dietary changes, surgery, or medical devices.

With a basic understanding of what epilepsy is, we need to discuss prevalence – particularly for children who are in our schools and classrooms. Key statistics, from 2015, are provided by the Centers for Disease Control below:

  • 1.2% of the US population reported active epilepsy
  • 470,000 children have active epilepsy
  • 336,000 children have at least one seizure each year
  • 30 of individuals with epilepsy struggle day-to-day with the threat of imminent seizures.

For teachers and leaders, these figures are highly important. With most states requiring a 180-day academic year, these children with epilepsy spend a significant amount of time in schools. Thus, every school and every classroom, statistically, has students with epilepsy. This reality should cause educators at every level to pause and answer two very important questions:

  1. If a student has a seizure, do you know what to do?
  2. Are you prepared to support and help these students after the seizure?

Every school community needs to be prepared to support and encourage every student – even those with epilepsy. Student care plans not only address the physical steps to take but must also include social and emotional supports for before, during, and after a seizure. In a future blog, the Stride Professional Development Center will outline a few, key steps for schools to support their students with epilepsy.

Right now, however, you can visit the National Epilepsy Foundation to gain resources and toolkits that help schools with Seizure Preparedness.

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