Our #StudentSeptember campaign is centred around students with epilepsy in further and higher education.
Whether you are in school thinking about next steps, considering applying to college or university, currently a student, or hadn’t really given it much thought, we want to ensure you are equipped with the knowledge and confidence to navigate student life.
The importance of seeking support
Epilepsy can have many impacts on a person’s life. It can impact physical and mental health, and these knock-on effects can impact student life.
It is common for people with epilepsy to struggle with their mental health. Anxiety and depression can affect a person’s epilepsy and their ability to study and learn.
Similarly, stress, which can seem unavoidable for some students, is a common seizure trigger.
Knowing what support is available to you and how to get it is essential. Support can come in many forms, including institutional support you can receive from your college or university.
Support from your college or university
All colleges and universities have dedicated student support and disability services designed to help students.
We want to encourage all students with epilepsy to reach out to these services for any support they might need.
We spoke with Caroline West, the Disability Services Manager at Heriot-Watt University to find out what disability services do, and what advice she had for students with epilepsy.
What is the general role or purpose of disability services?
The Disability Service is here to provide students with advice and guidance and assess support needs.
We can provide a range of practical support and advice whether you are a prospective, new, or current student.
If a student with epilepsy is struggling to keep on top of their work, what advice or support would you offer them?
There is support to help with this. We can pair a student up with a one-to-one study support tutor to help streamline study techniques so they are working as effectively as possible, set a study plan so they are organising their time and allowing for rest breaks.
Working with a tutor also helps to identify areas they may be struggling with and offer practical tips to help.
I would also direct them to the university library. There are Subject Librarians who can help point students to particular pieces of research and textbooks and the library also holds skills hubs which help with key academic areas such as presentation skills and referencing.
How would you encourage students who need additional support to contact the disability team?
At Heriot Watt, if a student has declared a disability or medical condition on their UCAS application, we contact them prior to starting so that we can look at support and reasonable adjustments, ideally, we would want these in place before starting their studies.
It can take some time to arrange support. The sooner we know about a student’s disability the sooner we can begin to organise any support they may need.
Students are advised to contact the Disability Service preferably before they start their studies or as soon as possible after arrival.
What would your advice be for people with epilepsy who are thinking about applying for university or college?
Contact the Disability Service early, see what support they can offer and discuss openly with the advisors of any areas of studies that may be affected.
The advisors will be able to help and look at solutions for you. There is a whole wealth of technology out there that can help with areas such as notetaking, reading, study support.
Also, depending on the type of epilepsy we can help look at adaptions in your halls, such as having a room on the ground floor, specialised pillows and Personal Care Plans should there be an emergency.
This details to the first aiders what you would like to be done in the event of a seizure or what needs to be carried out should emergency first aid or an ambulance be required.
By reaching out for help, students can explore the many avenues of support available and work out what is best suited for their needs.
For more information and advice about being a student with epilepsy, check out our Student Guide.
If you have any questions, concerns, or simply want to talk to someone, please contact our freephone helpline on 0808 800 2200.