Learning materials about Epilepsy

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is not just one condition, but a group of many different 'epilepsies' with one thing in common: a tendency to have seizures that start in the brain. Epilepsy is usually only diagnosed after a person has had more than one seizure. Not all seizures are due to epilepsy. Epilepsy is most commonly diagnosed in children and in people over 65. (Epilepsy Society, 2016) Epilepsy is an illness that for a short time only, changes the way a child’s brain works. Although seizures can vary in how they look or feel, they are all caused by a sudden surge of electrical energy in the child’s brain. This leads to sudden changes in how a young child may act, move or feel. Seizures may last a few seconds or a couple of minutes, and then the brain goes back to normal again. The child may not remember what happened. (Marie Kanne Poulsen, Psychologist)

Seizures present in many ways

The child may suddenly fall, getting stiff with shaking or jerking of an arm or leg or all over. The child may be seen experiencing episodes of blank staring that last only for a few seconds. The child may have changes in mood, feeling afraid or angry for no apparent reason. The child may appear confused, with almost trance-like behavior during which the child’s consciousness is impaired. (Marie Kanne Poulsen, Psychologist)

How epilepsy can affect a child at school?

According to the Equality Act 2010 “it is against the law for education and training providers to discriminate against people with epilepsy. This includes nurseries and playgroups, primary and secondary schools, and further and higher education. The Equality Act covers extracurricular activities. It also covers how the curriculum is delivered and so methods of teaching need to treat all pupils fairly and not put any pupils with epilepsy at a disadvantage. However, the Equality Act does not cover the content of the curriculum.” (Epilepsy Society, 2015)

Seizures at school

For some children, having epilepsy will not affect their ability to learn or achieve academically but others may need extra time or support in class. For example, a child who has absence seizures may miss key points during lessons. Having a chance to catch up on what they have missed in class can be helpful if seizures happen frequently. Sometimes a child may need time to recover after a seizure and may need to sleep.  (Epilepsy Society, 2015)

How will other pupils feel about epilepsy?

Generally, people feel more confident about epilepsy when they understand it and know what to do if someone has a seizure. Learning about epilepsy in the classroom can be good way to introduce information about the condition, without any children with epilepsy feeling that they are singled out. (Epilepsy Society, 2015)

Key points to help children understand what happened

What happened to the child is called a seizure. It happened because for just a minute or two the child’s brain got mixed up and sent mixed up messages to the rest of his body. Now that the seizure is over, his brain and his body are working properly again. Seizures are not like a cough or a cold; they can’t be caught from other children.  Seizures stop by themselves. We help the child who is having a seizure if we stay quiet and do not get in his way, keep him safe, and be a friend when it is over. Encourage other children to ask questions (Marie Kanne Poulsen, Psychologist)

Assistive Technology suggestions for people with Epilepsy:

People with epilepsy might have sensitivities in light or sounds so there are different technological products that can be helpful for people with epilepsy especially when they need to use technology. Those products will not cure the person, however they will assist the person to minimize the factors that trigger seizures.

Example of these products are: Mat screens, flickering free screens or monitor glare guards. Those are better for student who are experiencing epilepsies as some students are sensitive to glare and screen flickering. If the person is sensitive, you can also disable from web browser the animation and audio on websites so the student who is sensitive on this will not have any consequences. The above mentioned are just a few examples of technologies that will support students to minimize the factors that trigger seizure.

Strategies to minimize seizures

There are certain strategies that can benefit people with epilepsy:

  • Environmental adaptations: people who are light-sensitive may consider avoiding certain lighting such as sitting under fluorescents lighting and replace it with something else that they feel more comfortable with.
  • In case of children: At school it is important the child to be placed near the teacher. Some children who are sensitive to lighting should be allowed to wear a hat in the class, where needed, as well as sun glasses when they are outside in the playground. If the child is having severe seizures he/she should be allowed to wear a special helmet at school to protect himself/herself from getting injured during a seizure episode. Also, children who have difficulties reading in white paper they can use special overlays when they are reading such as Irlen overlays.
  • Monitor diet: in epilepsy it is important for the person to be seen by a dietician and be given a special diet. Some types of diets (such as  Ketogenic) may be helpful for some persons to reduce seizures. Ketogenic diet is high in fat and low in protein and carbohydrate content. Any person who will undertake a diet should be monitored by his/her dietician.  Teachers should be informed in case the child is under any special diet.
  • Antiepileptic medication and supplements: Medication is important for preventing seizures and certain supplements prescribed by the doctors are crucial for people to control their seizures from happening frequently and have a better quality of life. School should be always informed about what medication a child is receiving. The school is responsible for the child at school time, for the latter to get his/her medication on time. Parents should inform the school in case the child is having any changes in his medication, since during that transition periods the child may experience more seizures or other incidents because of the medication changes.
  • Enough sleep: Taking enough sleep and on certain time every day is also important in order for the child to experience less seizures. In case the child didn’t sleep enough, it may have more chances of experiencing a seizure or loss of concentration.
  • Avoid stress: Stress is a factor that might trigger a seizure, so children need to avoid putting their self in stressful conditions and they need to find ways to handle stress. Some adults are doing meditation, gym, dance, etc. Moreover, it is also advisable for children to participate in activities and learn strategies to handle stress at as early age as possible. This will not only support them to have less seizures but also will boost their self – esteem.

References

  1. Epilepsy Society (2016, December). ”What is epilepsy?” Retrieved June 25, 2017 from https://www.epilepsysociety.org.uk/what-epilepsy
  2. Epilepsy Foundation North Carolina (2009, September)” What is epilepsy?” Retrieved June 26, 2017 from  http://www.epilepsync.org/About%20Epilepsy.html
  3. Epilepsy Society (2015, January). “Teaching children with epilepsy” Retrieved June 25, 2017 from   https://www.epilepsysociety.org.uk/teaching-children-epilepsy
  4. Epilepsy Society (2015, January). “School, education and epilepsy” Retrieved June 25, 2017, https://www.epilepsysociety.org.uk/school-education-and-epilepsy
  5. Epilepsy Society (2015, January). “Teaching children with epilepsy” Retrieved June 25, 2017 from   https://www.epilepsysociety.org.uk/teaching-children-epilepsy
  6. Poulsen M. “Epilepsy in young children. A guide for Preschools and child care centers.” Retrieved June 26, 2017 from http://www.uscucedd.org/component/jdownloads/send/10-epilepsy/56-epilepsy-in-young-children-a-guide-for-preschools-and-child-care-centers
  7. Act on Epilepsy video:  http://www.fixers.org.uk/news/9322-11208/act-on-epilepsy.php?gclid=Cj0KCQjwvr3KBRD_ARIsANSQYJptCz2qFwUiA3SxjJP_fTE0lz7EK3mFN01mrJmLgW2BSkemspzkIJAaAgUFEALw_wcB
  8. Ketogenic diet information:  https://www.webmd.com/epilepsy/ketogenic-diet-for-epilepsy


Last modified: Thursday, 8 March 2018, 2:30 PM