Childhood epilepsy can have a wide variety of causes. Head injury, infections of the brain, brain tumors, and genetic history could potentially be factors. However, in a great number of cases, no medical explanation for a child’s seizures can be determined. Children with epilepsy are eligible for special education, according to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA).
As the parent of a child with epilepsy, there are adaptations in the regular classroom setting which you can request (and insist upon) for your child. An IEP meeting should be conducted where you can discuss these adaptations specifically with the teachers and administrators who work with your son or daughter.
Here are ten possible classroom adaptations:
- Adequate training must be provided for your child’s teacher(s) and all staff who deal with your child. Do not assume that the teacher is familiar with seizure disorders. In a private meeting, discuss the basics and provide all involved with specific instructions for how to deal with your child in the event of a seizure. Make sure you provide a home and cell phone number where you can be reached at all times.
- It would be an excellent idea to train your child’s entire class with the following information: a) what epilepsy is, b) what to do in the event of a seizure, and c) that your child is a normal, happy person with hobbies and interests just like them. Incorporate the class training in an already established “student of the week” program. (Many elementary school teachers will have student “spotlights,” “special days” or some other program to highlight one class member.) Arrange to have your child’s day as soon as possible. Provide photos or video of your child playing, having fun, and other regular activities, in addition to explaining the basics of epilepsy.
- Make sure your child is seated away from bookshelves or furnishing that could cause injury.
- If seizures occur in the classroom, observations should be made about what events were going on in the classroom prior to the incident. Look for patterns in triggering factors.
- If seizures are ongoing, the teacher should be instructed to write in a notebook the times, duration, and antecedents. This log can be extremely helpful.
- Specific instructions should be given for field trips, and your child should never be left unsupervised.
- Your child should have adequate time to complete missed assignments or tests due to seizure activity or medical appointments.
- Have specific guidelines in place for your child’s medication. Should any meds be dispensed at school? Dosages should be clearly indicated. Side effects should be explained and staff should know what to look for.
- Encourage your child to set up social visits from school friends. It’s important for other students to see your son or daughter in her home environment. If your child feels awkward or isolated, ask your teacher to recommend a good-natured child who would be receptive to an invitation.
- A peer tutor could be assigned to keep a special watch for your child on the playground or during field trips, etc. This child should be especially responsible and know exactly what to do in the event of an emergency.
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