It’s that time of year again! The family vacations have ended, pencils and notebooks have been purchased, and clothes are picked out for the first day of school. Kids all over the country are going back to school and, for many, it is exciting! Back to school may mean homework, but it also means chatting with old friends, beginning extracurricular activities again, and finding new adventures to make memories from. For students with epilepsy, going back to school can be more complicated. I’ve outlined a few speed bumps those of us with epilepsy may encounter when starting school and how to handle them.
Sometimes school personnel have been taught and trained to understand and respond to seizures. Unfortunately, not all educators are so lucky. Before school begins, it is good to find out who your (or your child’s) teacher will be and explain epilepsy to him or her. My mom always wrote my teachers a letter and took it in to a meeting before school began. That way, teachers had documentation to refer back to if they had any questions about my seizures and they also had a chance during the meeting to get answers to any questions or concerns they had. I always had the option of going to the meeting with my mom and, once I became more comfortable with my diagnosis, I began attending and participating in them. It was a great way to foster a relationship with my teacher as well as calm any fears I had about being in school again.
Meet the Nurse
Every school is different; some have one nurse for each building in a district, while others have one nurse to cover everyone. Whether you have known your school nurse for years or you’re entering a new school with a new nurse, it is essential to talk to him/her. While it is not necessary to meet with the nurse, it can be helpful. A nurse is trained in the health field, so he/she should know more about epilepsy. You can talk to the nurse about your specific needs and how to respond to your type of seizure. While there are general rules for responding to a seizure, each person is different and it’s important that you or your child get the care that you need.
When I was in school, I had special accommodations to help me be successful. To get these, I went through testing and had a document called an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) that outlined what help I was allowed. My parents and I met with a school psychologist, the guidance counselor, the principal, and teachers to make sure everyone was on the same page. Check with your school district to find out what is required for an IEP, a 504, or any other accommodations to help you or your child to be successful.
Stick to a Schedule
Eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep are essential to everyone’s health. It is even more important for those of us with epilepsy. Make sure to get yourself back into a routine full of sleep, balanced meals, and stress relief. All of these things not only help your body function normally but they also keep your brain working! Don’t get so busy that you and your child forget to take care of yourself. Parents: this goes for you, too!
Beginning a new school year should be exciting and filled with fun! Don’t allow epilepsy to steal that joy from you and your child. Find out what it will take for you or your student to be successful. That may be extra help in school, a specific bed time, or taking a walk every night. You know your body best and what you need to stay healthy. Don’t forget to have fun! Enjoy all the activities that come with the school year.