Children with epilepsy risk a poorer standard of education

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Children with epilepsy risk a poorer standard of education than their peers because of teachers’ lack of awareness, specialist training and resources, according to new findings by a UK charity.

The research by the Young Epilepsy charity suggests children with epilepsy continue to be let down in three key areas:

  • Misconceptions concerning epilepsy present a significant barrier to inclusion in education for children with epilepsy.
  • Failure by education professionals to recognise how epilepsy can present: In particular the mistaken belief that tonic-clonic (convulsing) seizures are the only form of seizures.
  • Lack of specialist training has meant a failure to appreciate the connection between epilepsy and the additional learning needs of children with epilepsy. Seizure symptoms and difficulties related to epilepsy may be misinterpreted as ‘naughtiness’.

On average, one pupil in every primary school and five in every secondary school has been diagnosed with epilepsy. 50 per cent of children with epilepsy underachieve at school and they are at greater risk of depression. The research sets out recommendations for education professionals, health workers, parents and policy makers, which include:

  • Ensure all education professionals have access to specialist training that recognises not only the medical characteristics of epilepsy, but also the learning and psychosocial difficulties that may arise.
  • A multidisciplinary approach should be taken with regard to the care and education of children with epilepsy. It is vital that the healthcare and educational professionals communicate effectively.
  • Wider policy and practice to reflect epilepsy not only as a medical condition, but also addresses the associated educational and psychosocial issues faced by children.

David Ford, Chief Executive at Young Epilepsy, said: "Every child has the right to an education in a safe and supportive environment, and to be fully included in class activities. Despite huge medical advances made in recent years, epilepsy is still very much misunderstood and it’s a sad fact that children that often pay the price for this lack of understanding. For too many children, poor academic performance has become part of a culture of low expectation.

“By bringing education professionals, health workers, parents and policy makers together to have an honest discussion we want to reverse this culture. Epilepsy is a varied and widely misunderstood condition. It can have a devastating impact on the lives of young people. And we know from experience that where professional staff are provided with a little more information and work together, it can dramatically improve a child’s education. After all it’s a teacher who can transform a child’s life forever.”

School Leadership Today
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