Back to School: An Action Plan
Going back to or starting school is an exciting time for children and parents. Getting new school supplies, seeing old friends, working with a new teacher, and perhaps even going to a new school!
For all children with medical conditions it's important that you plan in advance to successfully transition your child into the new school year. Children with epilepsy may have additional health or learning needs that may need to be accommodated. Making sure everyone is on the same page is the best way to start.
Below are some tips to assist you in this process.
Put together a document with information about your child
School staff need up-to-date and specific information to help your child. Even if your child has been attending the same school as in previous years, it is still important to update staff with medical information.
Medical information to provide should include:
- Name of the type of epilepsy or syndrome if known or applicable (for instance: BREC, Absence Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, Dravet syndrome).
- Name of the seizure type(s) the child has.
- What the seizures typically look like.
- Seizure frequency (including date of the last seizure).
- Activities or stimuli that could trigger a seizure.
- Names and dosages of medications (if a child has side-effects from a medication be sure to note those as well).
- First Aid protocol (this may need to be coordinated by a nurse).
It is best to explain this information verbally as well as providing a written document with this information. Click here for a sample of this type of document.
Note: The BC Epilepsy Society provides information for teachers specifically about epilepsy. This includes the information sheet Understanding Students with Epilepsy: Tips for Teachers and a video for teachers about epilepsy.
Know the district and school educational policies
It can be confusing at first to learn what school department does what, what is available, and the terminology. However taking the time to learn it before you meet with school staff will help put everyone on the same page.
As per the Ministry of Education, the goal of the BC school system is to support the intellectual development of all students, including those with special needs. Note: most of children with epilepsy are not considered to be in their special needs category since they function at the same level or even higher than the rest of their peers.
The Ministry of Education definition of a student with special needs is considered to have one or more of the following: an intellectual, physical, sensory, emotional, or behavioural disability; a learning disability; or exceptional gifts or talents.
Some students are eligible for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). This is a written document for a student that describes program adaptations or modifications for learning and/or healthcare needs. It is for children who meet the criteria for special needs or who are receiving Resource Teacher support for more than 25 hours in a school year.
Some students are eligible for additional assistance from the Physical Disability or the Chronic Health Impairment disability category, due to one or more of the following: nervous system impairment that impacts movement or mobility; musculoskeletal condition; and/or chronic health impairment that seriously impacts a students’ education and achievement. Students who meet these criteria must also have a current IEP and be receiving other special education services.
For more information on educational policies regarding children with special needs, please review: Special Education Services: A Manual of Policies, Procedures and Guidelines from the Ministry of Education.
Different school districts may name or deliver their support services in slightly different ways. For information on school district services start by looking at your school district website.
In order to work towards making school as rewarding as possible for your child, it is important to promote a partnership between your family and key individuals from the school and health care team.
Below are documents and services to assist you in your child's successful transition to school:
- Partners in Teaching Program: Provides free seizure awareness workshops for teachers and students.
- Understanding Students with Epilepsy: Tips for Teachers Information Sheet: Describes impacts of seizures on learning and gives suggestions on how to support children with epilepsy in the classroom.
- Epilepsy and Seizure Information for Schools Video: Explains facts about seizures and epilepsy, recognizing seizures and first aid, learning difficulties and teaching strategies to assist those with epilepsy.
- Partners in Teaching Classroom Resource Kits: Resources to teach kids about epilepsy and seizures.