Children in school who have epilepsy face significant impacts. Because these students have seizures that bring unwanted attention to them, they often feel misunderstood as they are not invited to parties, avoided by their peers, or even out-right bullied by others. When these social circumstances occur, the epileptic student struggles with isolation, helplessness, anxiety, and even depression.
When schools and families come together to meet the needs of students with epilepsy, that student’s probability for academic success increases greatly. As such, teachers and leaders must know exactly how to help students with epilepsy. The tips below are important starting points:
1. Know your students with epilepsy – Relationships are the foundation for strong classroom culture and instructional practices. One instructional leader summarized it best with this statement: “If you don’t know them, you cannot grow them.” Every adult that has a child with epilepsy in their classroom should be both aware and able to assist if needed.
2. Have a Seizure Action Plan for the school – The seizure action plan is a critical collection of information on the student so that adults are informed before a seizure arises. The document shares health and medical details while also providing response guidance. Schools should not create a blanket plan for all students with epilepsy as these must be individualized based upon the condition. If you do not know where to start, the NEF has a sample plan that you can download and use.
3. Promote training for all staff – Schools have regular intervals of transition during the school day. Students arrive, move between classes, shift to the lunchroom, walk to the restroom, or await dismissal. These transitions cause many adults to interact with students during the day; therefore, every adult in the school should be trained – annually – how to handle a seizure. This regular, ongoing training provides a larger support system for a student with epilepsy.
4. Check in with the family – After a seizure has occurred, reach out to the family a few days later. While the school followed its normal communication protocol in the Seizure Action Plan, this extra connection is a way to demonstrate continued support. Ask how the student is doing. Gauge if some time with a school counselor would be appropriate. This call is also an opportunity to see if any adjustments are needed in that student’s plan.
This blog barely scratched the surface of strategies for preparation; however, you can find a wealth of information through the National Epilepsy Foundation on their website: https://www.epilepsy.com.