By law, people with epilepsy (or other disabilities) in the United States cannot be denied employment or access to any educational, recreational, or other activity because of their epilepsy. However, significant barriers still exist for children with epilepsy in school. Compared with students with other health concerns, a CDC study shows that students aged 6–17 years with epilepsy were more likely to miss 11 or more days of school in the past year. Antiseizure drugs may cause side effects that interfere with concentration and memory. Children with epilepsy may need extra time to complete schoolwork, and they sometimes may need to have instructions or other information repeated for them. Teachers should be told what to do if a child in their classroom has a seizure, and parents should work with the school system to find reasonable ways to accommodate any special needs their child may have (NIH:2021).
It may be necessary for the parents of a child with epilepsy to prepare a Seizure Action Plan if their child has a seizure at school. A Seizure Action Plan contains the essential information school staff may need to know in order to help a student who has seizures. It includes information on first aid, parent and health care provider contacts, and medications specifically for that child. Seizure Action Plans are an important tool that help parents and schools partner to keep children safe and healthy during the school day. (Learn more)
On March 3rd, 2022, the Florida legislature passed HB173 “Care of Students with Epilepsy or Seizure Disorders” (Utah, Arizona, and Virginia also passed similar legislation in 2022 to ensure seizure safe schools). This legislation requires that individualized seizure action plans (ISAP) are established to inform school personnel of the health care services required by a student and how to act in emergency situations. Download a fact sheet here.
It may be helpful for students with epilepsy to use assistive technologies in the classroom. Assistive technologies are described as any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. Assistive technologies for memory loss help individuals who experience memory loss during or after a seizure and can include apps for memory (such as Aida Reminder, AudioNote, or Brainwaves), electronic organizers, and labels/bulletin boards. Assistive technologies for stress intolerance may help manage or reduce levels of stress and anxiety and can include apps (such as Breathe2Relax, Headspace, and Stop, Breathe, Think), simulated skylights and windows, and sound/noise machines. Please visit 1-800-227-0216 or your Epilepsy Agency Services Program for more information on assistive technologies available to you and your child. (Learn more)
For those with epilepsy, there are certain challenges that might arise when pursuing a degree. Some issues include receiving proper accommodations, accessing medical care, and finding financial support. It is important to consider the university, size of classes, and community resources when applying to colleges.
There are a number of scholarships that students with epilepsy can apply to.
UCB Family Epilepsy Scholarship Program
The Joe D’Souza Memorial Scholarship was created in 2019 in memory of UCB’s beloved global medical director and is awarded annually to the single applicant who most exemplifies Dr. D’Souza’s spirit. Dr. D’Souza was recognized around the world for his commitment to those who suffer from epilepsy disorders and his work at the forefront of new epilepsy treatment. In addition to his undisputed achievements in antiepileptic drug development, he excelled in honesty, integrity, and genuine concern for the well-being of his colleagues and the epilepsy community.
Ryan Siddique Scholarship Fund
The purpose of this scholarship program is to provide financial support for the education of people living with epilepsy. The award is an annual scholarship of up to $5,000. Once applicants are selected – a $5,000 check will be mailed in their name to their higher education institution. Previous award recipients are welcome to apply for future scholarships.
Central Florida Epilepsy Scholarship Foundation, Inc. Merle Evanchyk Scholarship
The Central Florida Epilepsy Scholarship Foundation (CFEF) seeks to recognize the personal achievements of those living with epilepsy. The CFEF will offer scholarships ranging from $1,000 – $2,500 for post-secondary education, advanced college education or post-secondary vocational education.
FSU Office of Accessibility Services
Providing services to more than 5000 students, the Office of Accessibility Services (OAS) is committed to ensuring universal access for each Florida State University student. The OAS creates an environment of success through the provision of academic, housing, and dining accommodations, testing support, assistive technologies, and space for students to feel they are part of the FSU community.
To learn more about deadline extensions, notetaking services, attendance accommodation, and more, visit the OAS website.