My Article in Honor of Epilepsy Month, Published This month
Students with Epilepsy: They Have Dreams, Too!
by Donna Roberts, Regional Program Specialist
My son started having seizures in 1st grade. In the beginning the seizures and eplipsy were very overwhelming for our family. As time went on, I came to understand the impact his seizures and a diagnosis of epilepsy would have on his education, as it has on other students who have epilepsy.
When students have an escalation of seizures at school, home and other places it takes a far reaching toll on them. It not only influences behavior and attendance but may cause a decline in areas such as reading, subject comprehension, math and even IQ. I experienced this with my son as his IQ dropped about 15 points.
The combination of multiple medications in high doses can strongly affect the way students learn as well. Taking even one medication can cause concentration problems; consider the effect taking two, three, four or more medications can have on concentration levels.
It's difficult for students who have been A and B achievers to understand and accept sudden declines in grades to Cs and Ds. In the worst cases, they can plummet to just barely passing or actually failing.
Some school personnel believe that if a student is passing, they don't need intervention. This is unacceptable to us as parents and advocates; we need to remind them that no student can be left on the sidelines. It's imperative to develop and implement an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) that keeps their long term goals in sight.
As advocates for parents of students who have seizures at school, we need to make sure their IEPs include provisions for them to stay in school and learn. Exclusion from school due to seizures isn't the answer; students may only fall further behind.
Students can achieve their goals if those in their lives work together. As advocates, we can make sure the necessary accommodations are put into place through the IEP process.
Progress toward goals may include alternative paths. For example, if a student aspires to be a Veterinarian and that goal is challenged, they might pursue becoming a Veterinarians' Assistant. They could work in the office, clean cages, or walk the animals. If a student wants to be a Chef, consider related employment in this area. The educational team can help prepare students for these positions.
All students have dreams. Schools should accept this fact and support all efforts; the team approach makes us all stronger in helping meet goals.
A Free Appropriate Public Education is provided for every student to help achieve dreams; those dreams shouldn't be disallowed by anyone. Students don't deserve to be treated with a "just get them through" attitude. Parents and educators should be challenged to implement an appropriate IEP to meet educational goals, providing a network of support to achieve those dreams.
Some day, we'll be reading our students' success stories; there's great satisfaction-and happiness-in working toward and achieving a dream.
(I thought she did a great job trimming even more off. It is still a great tribute to my son and others with epilepsy)