How epilepsy affects education

Some of the people we interviewed had been diagnosed with epilepsy as young children. Here they discuss their experiences of school and education.

Partial seizures occur when only a part of the brain is affected, and consciousness is not lost but may be impaired or altered. For a teacher, this type of seizure may be the most difficult to recognise and identify. A change in consciousness may lead a young person to behave in a manner that may simply be thought of as silly or disruptive, such as fiddling with clothes, lip smacking and acting as if drunk.

Generalised seizures occur when the whole of the brain is affected and consciousness is lost. Absence seizures are perhaps the hardest generalised seizures to detect as they involve a brief interruption of consciousness, the only sign of which may be a fluttering of the eyelids. It may look as if the young person is daydreaming or lacks concentration.

Several people had a difficult time at school for a number of reasons. If they were mocked or teased by other children and teachers did not know about their epilepsy, their self-confidence was often affected. Some also felt that anti-epileptic drugs affected their memory and ability to concentrate.

Describes the effects of medication on his schooling.

Age at interview 31

Gender Male

Age at diagnosis 12

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One woman, like several other people we interviewed, explained how she would be told off in class for having seizures when she and the teacher were unaware of her epilepsy. Several people recalled the lack of information on epilepsy at schools. One woman explained how she rebelled at school, and described her feelings now towards her teachers.

Describes being told off in class when her teachers were unaware of her epilepsy.

Age at interview 49

Gender Female

Age at diagnosis 14

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Discusses rebelling at school and her feelings towards her teachers now.

Age at interview 48

Gender Female

Age at diagnosis 10

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People also discussed the challenges they faced at school because they had epilepsy. One woman said that her teachers were helpful and understanding, but that the stress of exams would bring on seizures.

Discusses some of the restrictions at school because of her epilepsy.

Age at interview 30

Gender Female

Age at diagnosis 9

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Recalls that her teachers were understanding but that stress brought on seizures.

Age at interview 42

Gender Female

Age at diagnosis 6

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One person told us that she attended a school for people with epilepsy. Two other people discussed the experiences of their children who had learning difficulties. One of these women described how the teachers reacted to her daughter’s seizures.

Tells how teachers reacted to her daughter’s seizures.

Age at interview 15

Gender Female

Age at diagnosis 7

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Young people with epilepsy might achieve as much as any other young person without the condition. Several of those interviewed recalled being determined to take and pass exams. A few people also discussed working hard and going to university.

For more information on how epilepsy effects education see our section on young people with epilepsy.

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