What to Do When Your Student Has a Seizure

Updated: Jun 22

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.

  1. STAY with the person and start timing the seizure. Remain calm and check for medical ID.

  2. Keep the person SAFE. Move or guide away from harmful objects.

  3. 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.

  4. Do NOT put anything in their mouth. Don’t give water, pills, or food until the person is awake.

  5. Do NOT restrain.

  6. 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.

  1. If the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes

  2. If they have repeated seizures

  3. If they have difficulty breathing