Epilepsy is the tendency to have recurrent seizures originating in the brain as a result of excessive or disordered discharge of brain cells.
Most children with epilepsy attend mainstream schools and do not require any additional provision, aside from special consideration or understanding. Some children with severe epilepsy may need to attend a special school which has full time medical support.
Coping with epilepsy at school
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.
Some epilepsy medications have side-effects that affect learning, including hyperactivity, drowsiness, memory problems, and difficulty in concentrating.
Choosing a mainstream school for a child with epilepsy
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 they have a staff member trained to give emergency medicine, if necessary?
- 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 your 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?
Some special needs are easy to spot, others are only determined once a child has experienced considerable difficulties, frustrations or social and emotional problems.
Over the years, diagnosis of and provision for SEN have improved, but both can still be a minefield.
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