Epilepsy is a neurological disorder which affects the brain and is marked by the tendency to have recurrent seizures.
These may be episodes of sensory disturbance, loss of consciousness, stiffness or jerky convulsions. It is usually a lifelong condition but can improve as children mature.
Epilepsy does not have any bearing on intelligence, although epilepsy may be an additional aspect of learning or physical difficulties. However, children with epilepsy can have problems with memory, processing speed, attention and concentration.
Epilepsy is usually treatable with medication. However, some epilepsy medications have side-effects that impact on learning, including hyperactivity, drowsiness, memory problems, and difficulty in concentrating.
Most children with epilepsy attend mainstream schools and do not require any additional provision, aside from special consideration or understanding. Epilepsy often accompanies other conditions, such as Cerebral Palsy and some children with severe epilepsy may attend a special school.
Choosing a mainstream school
You need to feel confident that a school can provide any medical support necessary and will make adjustments so that your child is not disadvantaged in his or her learning. Aspects you should consider are:
- Has the school trained all staff, including supply teachers and playground staff, in how to respond to a seizure, and do they clearly understand when it represents a medical emergency?
- Do you know who the staff member trained to give emergency medicine is?
- Will they ensure that your child can take part in off-site visits, after school clubs, residential trips, etc.? And how would they risk assess for these?
- If you think some activities may put your child at risk of seizures, how would they address this? For example, will they provide one-to-one support for swimming? How would they manage chemistry experiments?
- If your child has known side effects which have an impact in the classroom, such as problems with concentration or behaviour, how will they deal with this?
- If stress is a trigger for a child, how would the school support your child during exams?
- What other help can they offer during exams, for example rest breaks, or allowing pupils to take exams at a different time if seizures typically occur at a particular part of the day?
- What help will they give your child to contend with learning lost during absence seizures?
- If there are physical aspects to the classroom which could trigger seizures, will the school make adjustments?