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Classroom Accommodations for Students with Epilepsy

Instructor: Bethany Calderwood

Bethany has taught special education in grades PK-5 and has a master's degree in special education.

Having a student with epilepsy does not need to cause you anxiety. Instead, follow these steps to prepare yourself to appropriately accommodate your student with epilepsy.

Epilepsy Basics

What is epilepsy? Epilepsy is a neurological condition that causes seizures. Seizures, medically speaking, are a disruption in the brain's electrical activity. Practically speaking, there are a variety of seizure types, so there are a range of symptoms you might see.

Some seizures have motor symptoms. These may include jerky movements of the limbs, muscles that become tense or weak, or twitching movements. Some seizures have non-motor symptoms, such as a sudden pause in activity, loss of focus, or staring into space. A person having a seizure may remain conscious and aware, or they may become confused and disoriented.

If you have a student with epilepsy, you may need to respond to seizures that occur during the school day. You also need to take into account other ways in which epilepsy may affect the student's education.

Classroom Accommodations

504 Plan

A student with epilepsy should have a 504 plan, a formal plan that details the accommodations the student needs in order to fully access and participate in the general curriculum. This plan should be formulated with the input of the student, family, and doctors, taking into account the student's specific needs.

Here are some accommodations to consider.

  • Students with epilepsy may miss a lot of school due to seizure activity and medical appointments. They may need a plan to reduce or delay assignments or tests.
  • A student may need to be seated in proximity to the teacher, so the teacher can observe seizure activity.
  • Absence from seizures that occur during instruction can cause students to miss important information. Students may require re-teaching, tutoring, or other extra assistance.
  • Some students have specific stimuli that can trigger seizures. Triggers might include stress, flashing lights, loud noises, or excessive screen time. Students might require accommodations that allow them to opt out of situations that could trigger seizures, such as a quiet place to test or study.
  • Consistent home-school communication and frequent progress monitoring can help to identify and address the effects epilepsy is having on the student's learning.

Seizure Response Plan

If a student has a seizure and has never had one before, they need immediate medical attention. Your role is to be sure the school nurse and the parents are alerted right away, and to provide detailed information regarding exactly what you observed about the seizure.

If you have a student who is known to have epilepsy, you should have a seizure response plan. The plan will probably be developed by the parents and the student's doctors, sometimes involving the school nurse. All staff working with the student should be aware of their response plan, because a seizure can occur at any time during the school day or even on the bus.

The plan should include a description of the types of seizures most typically experienced by the student, so that you know what to look for. For some students with epilepsy, a seizure is a major event, and they may need to be sent home after having a seizure at school. For other students, seizures occur often. Their parents might want a record of any seizures you observe at school so they can inform the doctor to help with treatment plan. The student may need to take a brief break after a seizure or refrain from strenuous activity for the remainder of the school day.

Often, a student with epilepsy will have a rescue medication to be administered by the school nurse for a seizure longer than five minutes. All staff working with the student should know when to send for the nurse (such as after a seizure has lasted longer than two minutes).

A seizure response plan is very individualized, so there may be other elements to it. Your role is to know and follow the plan, and to be sure relevant personnel also know the plan.

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