Managing your child’s epilepsy at school
Concerns about school are normal when your child has epilepsy. But there are steps you can take to help ensure that school is a safe place for your child.
Learning that your child has epilepsy and then having to send them off to school can be scary. It's a normal parental response to feel worried. But with a careful epilepsy management plan in place and some training of the school staff, your child can safely enjoy school and participate in many activities.
Follow these suggestions, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Epilepsy Foundation, for making school a safer place for your child.
Create a seizure action plan
A seizure action plan will establish guidelines on what the school staff—such as teachers, school nurses and other staff who might supervise your child during the day—need to do if your child has a seizure. The plan will contain essential information such as first aid steps; who to contact when your child has a seizure; and what medicines your child may need during school hours. You can see a sample seizure action plan here.
Help the school staff understand epilepsy
Your school may not have other students with epilepsy, so it’s important to educate your child’s teachers and other staff about the condition and what it does and doesn’t mean for your child.
For instance, most children with epilepsy can enjoy nearly all of the same activities as other children without epilepsy. Sports like track, basketball, tennis and field sports are generally not a problem for kids with epilepsy. Swimming is fine, too, but children with epilepsy shouldn’t swim alone in case they have a seizure. And they should always swim with someone who knows they have epilepsy and can help them if they have a seizure.
School staff should also be aware of things that may trigger a seizure in your child, such as flashing lights.
Let the staff, particularly teachers, know if your child has any learning problems because of their epilepsy. Those problems may be caused by things such as:
- Medication side effects that can make a child feel tired or drowsy.
- Missed days from school because of medical appointments.
- Worry or anxiety about having a seizure.
- Changes in the part of the brain where your child’s seizures occur, which can affect memory and learning.
Work with your child’s teachers to find possible solutions for your child’s learning difficulties. And encourage teachers to let you know how your child is progressing.
Remind your child to take their medications
The school staff plays a key role in helping your child navigate epilepsy at school. But your child has some responsibilities too. Talk to your child about the importance of taking their seizure medicine. You may want to remind them of how it can prevent episodes from happening at school. You should create a medication schedule that is easy for you and your child to follow.
Remember to tell your child’s school and teachers about their medication. While it is rare that they will need to give your child medication, they should know how to do so in an emergency.
Prevent teasing and bullying
Targeted bullying and teasing is a concern for many parents of children with epilepsy. Talk with your child's school about how they can teach students about epilepsy and seizures to help prevent teasing and bullying.
To help prevent and deal with teasing and bullying, encourage your child to:
- Stay close to friends.
- Join clubs and activities at school.
- Alert a teacher or school employee if they are bullied.
- Stand up to the bully (if they feel comfortable doing so).
Be an advocate for your child
School is such an important part of a child’s life. Do all you can to help make school a safe and happy place for your child. Be sure to speak up if you feel that a school is not giving your child the type of support and medical attention that they need.
For additional information about managing epilepsy at school, visit the Epilepsy Foundation.