Updated: Jun 22, 2021
November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month, and the Epilepsy Foundation wants more people talking about it.
My first exposure to epilepsy was in 2008 while teaching students with multiple disabilities.
There were some students who had a history of seizures who were going to be in my classroom that year. Even before my students were in the school building, a special education nurse trained the classroom staff and me on what to look for and what to do if a seizure happened.
While epilepsy can manifest itself differently with people, my students had instances of generalized tonic-clonic seizures. This would include loss of consciousness, body stiffening, and shaking, among other symptoms.
And each time there was an occurrence, we would follow the individualized health plan that we had on file for the student. Which meant someone on my team would time the seizure, record any observations, and call a family member to notify them.
While about 0.6% of school-age children have epilepsy, the prevalence is higher for those with learning or intellectual disabilities. So, for inclusive schools, what can educators do to create a welcoming environment for students with epilepsy?
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, one way to prepare is to educate others about Seizure First Aid, which includes the “Three Ss:” Stay, Safe, Side.
STAY with the person and start timing the seizure. Remain calm and check for medical ID.
Keep the person SAFE. Move or guide away from harmful objects.
Turn the person onto their SIDE if they are not awake and aware. Don’t block the airway; put something small and soft under the head, loosen tight clothes around the neck.
Do NOT put anything in their mouth. Don’t give water, pills, or food until the person is awake.
Do NOT restrain.
STAY with them until they are awake and alert after the seizure. Most seizures end in a few minutes.
While it is always good to have an individual health plan or a seizure action plan for your students, here are some general guidelines for when to call 911.
If the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes
If they have repeated seizures
If they have difficulty breathing
If the seizure occurs in water
If the person is injured, pregnant, or sick
If the person does not return to their usual state
If it is a first-time seizure
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has partnered with the Epilepsy Foundation to deliver no-cost training for school professionals. As educators, it is essential to be responsive to the needs of your students. If you haven’t encountered any students with epilepsy, you might want to consider learning about seizure first aid now.
While learning about my students’ seizure protocol was part of their Individualized Education Program (IEP), it is still crucial for all adults in a school building to know what to do when a student has a seizure.
Want to know more information about the Epilepsy Foundation and what you can do to support students with epilepsy? Visit www.epilepsy.com or search for the hashtag #NEAM2020 and #SeizureFirstAid on social media.
Tim Villegas is the Director of Communications for MCIE, Editor-in-Chief of Think Inclusive, and the host of the Think Inclusive Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @TheRealTimVegas.