Know Epilepsy. No Fear.
Purple Day (26 March 2018) is a global initiative dedicated to raising epilepsy awareness. Purple Day was founded in 2008, by nine-year-old Cassidy Megan of Nova Scotia, Canada. Motivated by her own struggles with epilepsy, Cassidy started Purple Day in an effort to get people talking about the condition and to let those impacted by seizures know that they are not alone. She named the day Purple Day after the internationally recognised colour for epilepsy, lavender.
In celebration of Purple Day, Epilepsy Action Australia outlines best practice for teaching children with epilepsy or seizures.
Spreading Awareness of Epilepsy
We often hear from our clients and supporters that there is just not enough awareness about epilepsy. Due to this lack of knowledge, misconceptions abound. A crucial part of all of our campaigns is to actively educate and inform. We believe that the only way to combat misunderstandings about epilepsy, seizures and treatments is to articulate the facts and spread awareness. This will in turn reduce misconceptions. Our campaign Know Epilepsy. No Fear. has been widely promoted and shared among our followers and supporters. Simplicity often works best with messaging, so from posters to t-shirts we are spreading awareness by showing off this slogan.
The Importance of Understanding Epilepsy
Epilepsy can have a wide ranging impact on learning and it is imperative that children and adults with epilepsy have the appropriate support in order to develop to their full potential. To assist children and teenagers within your school community, teachers need to understand:
- the diverse manifestations of epilepsy
- the specific nature of each individual’s seizures and treatment
- how epilepsy may affect a person cognitively, emotionally and socially.
Epilepsy and Learning
Learning disabilities are not an automatic consequence of epilepsy. Many children and adults with epilepsy are high achievers both academically and socially. Some will, however, experience varying degrees of learning difficulties, and have their individual needs assessed and managed. Some of the difficulties which may affect learning for students with epilepsy are challenges with:
- short and long-term memory
- attention and concentration
- visual or verbal learning – reading, spelling, rote learning, speech and language
- perceptual abilities, numeracy, problem-solving and memory recall
- motor ability – handwriting may be poor and performance slower
- psycho-social problems – low self-esteem, frustration, anxiety, depression and poor motivation
- changes in mood, depression and anxiety
- behaviours – commonly attention-seeking or withdrawing.
Seizures have Triggers
People with epilepsy commonly report specific factors that may make them more vulnerable to experiencing a seizure. These are commonly referred to as seizure triggers. It is important that school staff are aware of the triggers for any of their students with epilepsy, so these can be avoided when possible. Triggers are specific to the individual, so this is an important issue to discuss with parents or the family.
Some of the more common triggers for school-aged children include:
- missing medication or medication changes (parents should report any medication changes or omissions to the school)
- stress, fatigue, excitement and emotional upset
- lack of sleep
- poor diet and eating habits
- heat or becoming overheated
- flashing lights or geometric patterns (relatively uncommon, only seen in 5%).
Things to remember about Epilepsy
- Children with epilepsy have the same range of intelligence and ability as other children.
- Epilepsy, seizures, medications and psychosocial issues can contribute to learning difficulties.
- People with epilepsy are prone to anxiety and depression, poor self-image and social problems – all of which can affect school performance.
- Missed schooling can impact on learning and important peer socialising.
- Some types of seizures may be frightening to the uninformed onlooker, others can be quite bizarre and not recognised as a seizure. Appropriate understanding and reactions from class mates and teachers can have a considerable positive effect on a student with epilepsy.
- The time that teachers spend with students places them in a unique position to observe and provide information about a student’s seizures.
While most seizures last less than two minutes and will stop on their own, it is important to stay calm, wait for the seizure to stop, and then administer any necessary first aid.
Safety is a priority, so if the student is in danger of injury or has been injured during a seizure, then first aid or assistance may need to begin before the seizure ends.
About the authors
Epilepsy Action Australia exists to ultimately save and improve the lives of those affected by epilepsy. They deliver innovative services that increase understanding, raise awareness, develop skills and leverage research to enhance the lives of those living with the condition.
If you require Epilepsy Training or need further information, please call Epilepsy Action Australia on 1300 37 45 37 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.