Equality Act

The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful for education authorities to discriminate against a child or adult for a reason relating to a disability such as epilepsy.  The act also applies to independent, grant aided and self-governing schools.  It specifies that:

  • A child or adult should not be treated less favourably because of their disability without justification
  • An education authority/school should make reasonable adjustments that includes a duty to provide auxiliary aids and services

You can find out more about the Equality Act and how it may apply to a child or adult affected by epilepsy on the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s website.

Epilepsy and learning

Whether a child’s learning is affected by epilepsy will depend on the type of seizures and whether there are any other support needs.  Frequent seizures can often affect a child’s memory, attention and concentration.

Learning is a result of connections being created between neurons via electric signals.  Abnormal electrical activity during a seizure can disrupt these connections.  These disruptions can make it difficult for a child to retrieve and remember information given at the time.

If a child is regularly off school because of seizures, this can also affect learning and exam results.  Schools should always take this into account by, for example, looking into special assessment arrangements for exams.  Other measures to support a child with frequent seizures could be providing written instructions for homework, and repeating information in the classroom.

Schools

Teachers are in a good position to spot, record and discreetly monitor a child’s seizures.  They can also be the first to notice when this seizure pattern changes.  Or they may see changes in a child’s behaviour, ability or achievement.

They need to know as much as possible about a child’s epilepsy such as:

  • type of seizures and how long they usually last
  • frequency of seizures
  • whether seizures tend to happen at particular times of the day
  • whether the child gets any warning before a seizure
  • whether the child needs to take any medication in school
  • whether the child experiences any side effects from the medication
  • whether any kind of first aid is likely to be required
  • whether there is a written care plan in place
  • how long the child needs to rest after a seizure

Teachers can help normalise epilepsy if handled with sensitivity.  To help your child’s teachers, make sure they have our Epilepsy – a guide for teachers publication which provides everything a teacher needs to know about epilepsy to effectively support a child with the condition.  It includes chapters covering the basics of epilepsy and seizures, exploring how it can affect a child’s learning, and how to recognise seizures.

Epilepsy Scotland can deliver age appropriate and fun awareness sessions to pupils across the country subject to location and available resources.  We can also offer basic awareness talks to staff or more formal epilepsy training.

College/university

Most colleges and universities in the UK have a student disability service providing invaluable guidance and support to students who have a disability or health condition, such as epilepsy.  If you feel you need extra help and support because of your epilepsy or any other physical or mental health condition, get in touch with this service.

Support given by this service often includes access to counselling, one to one support, or funding for technology that you may need to overcome some of the issues you may experience as a result of your epilepsy, such as a poor memory.

The service can also help liaise with lecturers over adjustments you may need, for example, sitting exams in a smaller room, getting more time sitting exams, or longer deadlines for submission of course work and essays.  It all depends on how you are affected by your epilepsy, including possible side effects of medication.

It is important to explain to the student disability service the whole effect epilepsy can have on a person.  It is not just about the numbers of seizures and possible side effects of your medication, but often poor memory, lack of confidence, low mood, and the risk of injury.  All of this potentially impacts on your life and your ability to study and complete your course work but with the right support, epilepsy should not hold you back.

For more information like this, check out our Student guide.

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