Imagine you’re a school teacher and suddenly one of your pupils has a seizure in the classroom. Would you know how to appropriately respond?
If not, a new service being offered by Epilepsy Ontario to schools in regions of the province without a local epilepsy support agency can help.
Epilepsy Ontario epilepsy information specialist Suzanne Nurse is leading webinars that are available to schools. The webinars provide background information about what epilepsy is, types of seizures, and how to recognize and respond to seizures.
“The reason we are doing this is that, in general, most teachers don’t have a lot of knowledge about seizures and epilepsy. Epilepsy is such a common neurological disorder, many schools in the province will have a student in their school who does have epilepsy, whether they know it or not,” says Nurse.
In Ontario, between 10,000 and 20,000 students have epilepsy, and approximately 1,000 will be diagnosed with epilepsy each year.
Because epilepsy is common and seizures even more common — people can have isolated seizures even if they don’t have epilepsy — it’s important for any school’s staff members to have training on what to do in the event a student has a seizure, says Nurse.
“That’s an important feature of this introductory training session; it’s to teach teachers what to do if a seizure happens,” she explains.
“It also provides information about what different types of seizures look like, because sometimes seizures go unrecognized.”
Nurse says the need for this service “became obvious” to Epilepsy Ontario after several families of children living with epilepsy expressed concern about the lack of training for teachers about seizure disorders.
Nurse says the best possible long-term results from the sessions would be for teachers to be empowered, should they face a situation where a student is having a seizure, and that they can become positive role models to their students if they have to respond to someone who is having a seizure.
“And the benefits are enormous for children who have epilepsy,” Nurse adds.
“If they’re going to a school where all of the staff are trained and knowledgeable about epilepsy, it makes the students and the families feel much more comfortable about the environment.”
The webinar also introduces information related to the impact that epilepsy can have on the social, emotional and academic development of children.
Nurse notes that epilepsy is a spectrum of many different disorders: some students with epilepsy will be at the top of their class, while others may experience language, attention or memory deficits associated with their epilepsy disorder.
This training is a first step toward improving outcomes for all children with epilepsy in the province and helping kids reach their full potential, says Nurse.
If your school would like to provide epilepsy and seizure training for your teachers, please contact Epilepsy Ontario at 905-474-9696.
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Writer: Deron Hamel