Children with epilepsy often report that they feel “out of control.”

Parents of children with a seizure disorder often ask themselves, “How will my child perform in school? What should I expect academically? How will my child fit in with the other kids? Will anti-epileptic medication affect my child’s learning?”

Even before children first enter school, they need to develop life skills. Understanding the issues that face children with epilepsy can help you ensure that your child has the best opportunity for growth and development. Given the chance, people with epilepsy can pursue advanced education and attain rewarding jobs.

Factors to considerExpand Factors to consider Section

Most children with epilepsy do well in school and do not have learning problems. However, parents should be aware that children with epilepsy are more likely to have problems in school. If a child with epilepsy is having trouble in school, there are many factors other than seizures that may be contributing to the problem such as:

  • frequency of child’s seizures
  • child’s attitude towards school
  • child’s intellectual ability
  • child’s self-esteem
  • side effects of child’s medication (hyperactive behaviour or lethargy)
  • teacher’s attitude towards and knowledge of epilepsy
  • attitude of other students toward the child with epilepsy
  • other disabilities

Most children with epilepsy do well in school and do not have learning problems. Take note, however, that “there is reason to be aware that school problems could occur, since they do occur more frequently in children who have epilepsy.” [Prof. John M. Freeman MD, Dr. Eileen P.G. Vining MD and Prof. Diana J. Pillas, Seizures and Epilepsy in Childhood: A Guide for Parents (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1990), 239.]

Learning with epilepsy

Learning is a life-long process. The learning skills that children develop during childhood will stay with them for the rest of their lives. It is important that learning should be a positive and enjoyable experience.

Children with epilepsy fit within the normal range of intelligence, however even if a child has average or above average intelligence, s/he may not perform at that level. A child’s performance may be adversely affected by many things, including:

  • Lowered expectations of the child by parents or teachers,
  • Poor attitude towards the child by parents, teachers or peers because s/he has epilepsy,
  • Absence seizures, which may disrupt learning by causing a child to miss important parts of the lesson (The child may end up having gaps in knowledge.),
  • Side effects from medications (Hyperactivity can cause problems with the child’s concentration and attention. Drowsiness will affect alertness and related activities.),
  • Side effects of the seizures themselves, which may include memory problems,
  • Poor school attendance due to school absences following seizures and/or medical appointments,
  • Psychosocial effects of seizures, including poor self-image, poor attitude toward school, social problems, and
  • Difficulties at home.

Myth: All children with epilepsy have learning problems.

If the child with epilepsy is having learning problems in school, it may or may not be related to the epilepsy. Most children with epilepsy do very well and do not have learning or social problems in school. Learning is a process that occurs both inside and outside the school walls. It is important that parents and schools work together in the child’s best interest.

Teachers and parents should be aware of the possibility of a learning or social problem as children with epilepsy do have an increased chance of experiencing school related problems. Learning problems are also more common in children with epilepsy. If these difficulties are identified early, steps can be taken to correct them and reduce their effects.

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