Children with epilepsy and their learning | Epilepsy in children | Living with epilepsy | About epilepsy

Children with epilepsy and their learning

Childhood epilepsy varies in type and severity and most children with uncomplicated epilepsy can have a normal, active childhood with just a few safety precautions.

All children should have access to the full curriculum and be encouraged to participate in social activities. Children with epilepsy should follow the normal codes of conduct which apply to their peers.

Generally, the earlier seizures begin, the more likely learning will be affected. Parts of the child’s brain continue to develop until just before adolescence, so functions performed by these developing parts may be disrupted by seizure activity.

Learning difficulties

Learning may be directly related to the epilepsy syndrome; the type, duration or frequency of the seizure and the time taken to recover. Some children with epilepsy may experience difficulties with:

  • Visual and /or verbal learning process.
  • Problem-solving and memory recall.
  • Maintaining consistency in learning.
  • Reading, spelling, rote learning, speech and language, perceptual problems, numeracy.
  • Motor ability – handwriting may be poor and performance slower.
  • Behaviour – low self esteem, frustration, anxiety and poor motivation. Alternatively attention seeking or withdrawal behaviour.

However, many children with epilepsy will achieve both academically and socially. Some children will experience varying degrees of learning disability and their individual needs must be identified and met by Health and Education authorities responsible for their well being.

Further difficulties can be created by unrealistic expectations (above or below child’s abilities) by parents, teachers and peers, socio-economic factors and differing family backgrounds.

Classroom learning strategies

The most common difficulty for students with epilepsy is with memory. Whether they are caused by seizures or general mental slowing from epilepsy medications, understanding these difficulties is crucial for effective learning. Strategies include:

  • Visual demonstrations and diagrams.
  • Colour-coded notes or highlighting to categorise material (name cards in different colours).
  • Word associations with pictures and smells (pictures of reference).
  • Mnemonic strategies: Use verbal, visual and symbolic techniques as memory aids.
  • Rehearsal-related rhymes and songs.
  • Learning to stay calm when memory blanks.
  • Verbal repetition: this leads to the consolidation of skills learn in mastering a task. Unconsolidated skills are not likely to be generalised to other learning tasks.
  • Active participation with the material that is to be remembered.
  • Cueing proves effective particularly with listening activities. Warn them ahead of time of the purpose of the activity. Knowing the purpose helps the student stay on task.
  • Breaking tasks down into most basic steps. Establishing teaching and learning stages that need to be achieved if the student is to succeed.
  • Group work develops listening and talking skills, encourages interaction with peers in problem-solving and allows students to ask questions and learn from each other.
  • Reviewing the processes used in solving a complex task can be very helpful for the student.

Epilepsy research in schools

Our extensive research into the problems faced by pupils with epilepsy has revealed that 95% are struggling needlessly at school.

Read more about our CHESS report

Helpline: 01342 831342 (Mon-Fri, 9am-3pm)
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Star Fact!

In the UK, 70% of the population with epilepsy could be seizure free with the right treatment.

Cyber EssentialsFundraising RegulatorYoung Epilepsy is the operating name of The National Centre for Young People with Epilepsy Charitable Trust.
Registered Charity number 311877 (England and Wales)

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