Teachers don’t understand epilepsy

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Epilepsy is still much misunderstood, claims a new report.

Children with epilepsy may receive a poorer standard of education because teachers do not properly understand their condition. The charity Young Epilepsy says that teachers are not given adequate training on the subject or the right resources to support those with epilepsy.

Using first-hand accounts by children with epilepsy and proxy reports from parents, a new report by the charity identifies a number of key barriers to education faced by these children. Misconceptions and a lack of awareness about the condition are blamed for the problems of inclusion in education faced by many children with epilepsy. The report says that teachers are not trained to recognise the different ways in which epilepsy can present, and some mistakenly believe that convulsing seizures, known as tonic-clonic seizures, are the only form of seizure.

The lack of specialist training also means that schools can fail to appreciate the connection between epilepsy and the additional learning needs of children with the condition. In some cases, seizure symptoms and difficulties related to epilepsy may be misinterpreted as behaviour problems.

It is estimated that around one pupil in every primary school and five in every secondary school has been diagnosed with epilepsy. The charity says that 50 per cent of children with epilepsy underachieve at school, compared to their peers. “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”, says David Ford, Young Epilepsy’s Chief Executive.

The new report argues that policy and practice should look beyond epilepsy only as a medical condition, and addresses the associated educational and psychosocial issues faced by children. It calls for a multi-disciplinary approach to the care and education of children with epilepsy, and for education professionals to be given access to specialist training on the condition and its effects.

The Young Epilepsy report is available at:
www.youngepilepsy.org.uk/inclusion

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