Epilepsy is a general term for conditions with recurring seizures. There are many kinds of seizures, but all involve abnormal electrical activity in the brain that causes an involuntary change in body movement or function, sensation, awareness, or behavior.
IDEA Definition of Other Health Impairments According to IDEA, an Other Health Impairment is defined as: Other health impairment means having limited strength, vitality or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, that:
(i) is due to chronic or acute health problems such as asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, and sickle cell anemia; and (ii) adversely affects a child's educational performance [34 C.F.R. 300.7(c)(9)].
How many people are affected by Epilepsy?
CDC estimates that about 2.3 million adults 1 and 467,711 children (0-17 years of age)2 in the United States have epilepsy.
About Epilepsy and Learning
School may be difficult for your child if she has learning problems along with her epilepsy. For example, if learning problems emerge because of seizures or medications, tasks that were previously routine may become more difficult and your child may see her classmates moving ahead at a faster pace, one that she cannot maintain.
Some specific learning problems that children with epilepsy can experience are:
academic problems: difficulties with reading, writing, and math
language problems: difficulties with comprehension, speech, and communication
attention and concentration problems: a child may be inattentive, hyperactive, or both. She may only be able to concentrate for short periods of time
slowness: it may take a child longer to process new information or to complete tasks compared to other children
memory: a child may study a topic many times, but not remember it the next day
In addition to ongoing learning disabilities, children with epilepsy may have intermittent disruptions in their learning that specifically relate to their seizures, sleep patterns, and medications. These disruptions in their ability to attend and learn can change from day to day, or even hour to hour.
Night-time seizures or poor sleep patterns caused by abnormal brain activity can increase fatigue during the school day. As a result the child is less attentive and less available to learn.
Frequent "invisible" seizure activity in the brain during the school day can result in slower processing, consolidation, and retrieval of information recently learned.
Children who have seizures, sometimes even a single seizure, during the school day can experience disruptions in their memory that cause them to forget what they have just learned. In some cases they cannot remember much about what happened just before or for some time after the seizure.
Some anti-epileptic medications (for example, topiramate) can slow down processing of information in some children, while other anti-epileptic medications can induce fatigue that decreases the child’s availability to learn.