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Back to School for Children with Epilepsy

Back to School for Children with Epilepsy

As September nears, families prepare for the back to school season, shopping for new clothes, school supplies and signing up for extracurricular activities; however, what about epilepsy planning and management?  For the most part, youth with epilepsy have the same social and emotional needs as other children, but there are many things that can be done to assist children with epilepsy transition back to school.

Tips for parents and guardians:

  • Speak to your child about their concerns.  Are they entering a milestone year with new tasks or events?  Are they worried about having seizures in the classroom?  Is there anything that they want to achieve in the upcoming year?  Having these discussions with your child makes you better attuned to your child’s frame of mind and puts you at a better vantage point to discuss concerns with their teacher or care team.  These conversations allow the child to explore their feelings about how epilepsy affects their academic and social lives, in turn permitting an opportunity for reassurance by the parents.
  • Inform the teacher about your child’s epilepsy.  This creates a culture of understanding and dialogue wherein the teacher is equipped with necessary emotional and social information to guide the student, and will result in the child feeling more comfortable and accepted.
  • Settle into a routine.  By mimicking the schedule your child will follow during the school year, your child will know what to expect in terms of medication changes and how it affects their daily activities, including sleep.  This also allows you to assess the primary effects and side effects of the medication during the day, whereas that opportunity would not be available otherwise.

Tips for teachers:

  • Talk about it to the class.  The teachers and parents’ attitudes and perspectives will influence the child’s and class’ views on epilepsy as well. Foster acceptance within the classroom.  Be careful to not reveal the identity of the child unless the child and guardians have given express consent.
  • Be open to discuss matters with the child’s parents and guardians.  Parents are the child’s first teachers; they are privy to information that may be helpful to you, such as sensitivities to blue light or computer screens.
  • Learn seizure first aid.  When teaching a student with epilepsy, a seizure occurring in the classroom is a possibility.  Learning seizure first aid can help you stay calm in the event of a seizure and effectively reassure the student when they come out of a seizure.  Furthermore, these skills will allow you to determine what situations require emergency assistance.

BC Epilepsy can help (follow the links for more details):

  • Seizure First Aid: BC Epilepsy Society offers Seizure First Aid training, including how to recognize the different types of seizures.  When most think of a seizure, they imagine the tonic clonic type, where the person with epilepsy experiences full-body convulsions.  However, there are several different types, and the first aid response for each varies.
  • Epilepsy Friends Forever (EFF): Epilepsy Friends Forever (EFF) was introduced as a way for children and adolescents to have fun and relax with their peers with whom they share common experiences.  Monthly 2-hour sessions are held with each age group to encourage friendship, understanding, education and support in a fun and creative environment for youth with epilepsy.
  • Partners in Teaching workshops:  BCES holds free workshops for schools who are looking for more information on epilepsy awareness and seizure first aid and safety.
  • Parent Network Meeting: Parents who are raising children with epilepsy comprise a large part of our membership and they need support as well.  We are currently gauging interest for a Parent Network group. 
  • Resources and advocacy:  Whether you require extra help in the classroom or to raise awareness amongst school administrators, BC Epilepsy has infosheets that can help.  With resources and information for needs across the lifespan, we can assist and advocate for a number of issues.

Of course, these lists are not exhaustive, and there may be other suggestions that may be practical for different parents, teachers and children with epilepsy.  Speak to the child and see what they are open to exploring and what they think might work for them.  Best of luck this school year, and may everyone have a successful scholastic season!

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