Epilepsy and Seizures

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What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that makes people more susceptible to seizures. It is characterized by the tendency to have recurrent seizures. Epilepsy is sometimes called a seizure disorder. Seizures happen when the brain's electrical pathways are temporarily interrupted. These interruptions can happen frequently, rarely or only in extreme circumstances (when brought on by stress or illness.) Children can experience many types of seizures.

Unless the doctor advises otherwise, treat the child just as you do other children and students. They should participate in all school activities as they are able. Parents should discuss any activity restrictions for their child with school staff. Students with epilepsy or seizure disorders on medications may experience side effects. Parents should review with staff what is typical for their child.

What are the signs of a seizure?

Epilepsy is a medical condition where a child is more likely to have recurring seizures. Convulsive seizures may occur in any child due to high fever or other temporary condition. At some time, most teachers will have a seizure prone child in their classrooms, although neither they nor the child's parents may be aware of the fact until a seizure occurs. Seizures can look different from person to person, and the same person can have different types of seizures at different times. Some signs of a seizure to look for include:

  • Blank staring into space, "empty" look in their eyes, inability to pay attention.
  • Repetitive and often rigid or jerky movements of body parts, usually head, arms, and/or legs.
  • Total body jerking movements with eyes rolled back in head, loss of body control, and loss of consciousness.

It isn't difficult to recognize a convulsive seizure. But non-convulsive seizures are harder to spot. If untreated, they may interfere with learning. Teachers and parents should note if they see a child display:

  • repeated staring spells
  • periods of unresponsiveness
  • repeated confusion
  • tic-like movements
  • head dropping
  • eyes rolling upwards
  • rapid blinking
  • mouth movements with a dazed look
  • dazed walking
  • jerking of an arm or leg

If any of these symptoms are observed, the child should receive medical assessments and follow up.

How do I help someone having a severe seizure?

It is important not to leave a child alone if they are having a seizure. Do your best to protect them from injury during their seizure episode by placing them on the floor away from objects or placing soft materials around them to protect their head or body from contact with hard surfaces until their seizure is over. Follow these steps:

  • Follow the child's medical alert care plan.
  • Protect the child from injury; if possible move them to a safe place on the floor.
  • Cushion their head, loosen clothing and remove glasses.
  • Do not restrain or try to hold the child still.
  • Do not put anything in the mouth.
  • Clear the area of other children.
  • Call 9-1-1 unless parents have instructed staff otherwise.
  • Notify the child's parents, guardians or emergency contacts.

After a seizure, the child will probably be confused and very tired. Let the child rest and after they recover encourage them to go about their regular activities. However, if the seizure has stopped and the child is still unconscious, follow these steps:

  • Put the child in the recovery position (onto the side with the face gently turned down).
  • Stay with child until they have fully recovered.
  • Notify the child's parents, guardians or emergency contacts.

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