Teachers’ and parents’ attitudes affect every child’s learning experience – positively or negatively. These attitudes can be particularly important for your child who has seizures. Parents can help by becoming a good resource for their child’s teachers and by keeping the teachers updated about any changes.
Helping the teacher to see your child’s seizures as a short term, temporary interruption should ease any anxiety the teacher may have. Sharing first aid and safety information with the teacher will enable the teacher to develop the skills and confidence to manage seizures at school. A teacher who understands your child’s seizure disorder and feels able to manage during a seizure will feel more confident than a teacher who does not have this information. (See our Resources page for materials that may help you inform your child’s teacher about epilepsy.)
The importance of informing teachers
Of all children, 1 to 2 per cent have epilepsy. Despite the prevalence of epilepsy, many teachers report that they have never had a student with epilepsy in their class. This is probably not the case. Rather, the child’s seizures may have been well controlled with medication, the child’s seizures may not have occurred during school hours or the teacher may not have noticed child’s seizures.
Teachers and other caregivers need information to help them recognize when a child is having a seizure, including:
- how to respond positively to the child having the seizure,
- how to administer the appropriate first aid and
- how to teach other students about epilepsy.
A positive attitude can also help by giving children with epilepsy and their families the confidence they need to tell teachers and other school officials about the child’s epilepsy. In addition to being an important safety issue, disclosure also sends an important message of reassurance to the child: that it is okay to have epilepsy.
The danger of low expectations
Not motivating or encouraging your child to complete homework assignments or to become involved in extra curricular activities for fear of having a seizure can restrict both the child’s learning and social experiences. This may encourage your child to use epilepsy as an excuse to avoid challenges and responsibility. It is best to encourage your child to engage in the kinds of activities s/he would have done had s/he not had a seizure disorder.
At times, some parents and teachers may have lower academic and behavioural expectations for children with seizures. This may be due to misunderstandings of the affects of epilepsy on the child or to a fear that pressure to do well may increase the child’s stress level, resulting in an increase in seizure activity. In these instances, it may help to consult with the child’s doctors, local epilepsy organization or parent support group.
Children need routine and structure in the school setting just as they do in their home environment. This may be especially true for the child with epilepsy, whose life – as a result of seizures – may feel unpredictable and out of control. When a seizure pulls your child off track, established routines can help your child get back on track. It is important for parents to share with teachers some helpful information regarding their child’s routine.