Going to school can be stressful for children with epilepsy. They may worry about having a seizure in class or how other students will react. Parents are also anxious. They often worry that their child's teacher may not know how to handle an epileptic seizure, or that their child may be treated unfairly because of epilepsy.
In many cases, these fears turn out to be unfounded. Parents should know that epilepsy isn't that uncommon. There's a good chance that yours won't be the first child with epilepsy that the teacher has seen.
Seizures occur in girls and boys at an equal rate and are more common before the age of 15 and after age 65. Inherited seizures are more likely to occur in girls. Seizures occurring after head trauma are more likely in boys. For now, there is no way to screen for a seizure disorder before it develops. However, avoiding head injuries -- such as by wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle -- can reduce the risk of acquiring a seizure disorder.
But while it would be nice if every teacher, coach, nurse, and principal in the country was well-informed about epilepsy, unfortunately this isn't the case. Parents of children with epilepsy will probably have to get involved in some situations, and do some teaching themselves.
"Parents of children with epilepsy need to get educated about the condition," says William R. Turk, MD, Chief of the Neurology Division at the Nemours Children's' Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. "They need to learn the facts. By sharing these facts with other people -- and dispelling the fears -- parents can help shape a future for their child with fewer obstacles and limitations."
Take the Initiative With Your Child's School
The best way to prevent misunderstandings about epilepsy at school is to step in early. At the beginning of the year, go talk to your child's teacher and school nurse. Explain that your child has epilepsy. You may want to take some brochures about the condition. Getting the right information to the right people at school early can make a big difference in your child's school experience.
Turk offers this example: If your daughter has a seizure in class and the teacher isn't informed about epilepsy, the teacher will automatically call an ambulance. Not only is the ambulance unnecessary, but the frenzied emergency process may frighten your child and the other kids in class even more than the seizure. When the teacher has been warned in advance, she won't be surprised. She can lay your daughter on her side, and let her have the seizure. Then your daughter can calmly walk down to the school nurse or office when it ends.