A study by charity Young Epilepsy has found misconceptions in schools about the condition, including confusion about how it can present and a mistaken belief that convulsions are the only form of seizures.
The research includes first-hand accounts from children with the condition and finds that seizure symptoms and other difficulties related to epilepsy are sometimes misinterpreted as “naughtiness”.
On average, five students in every secondary school have epilepsy and half of all sufferers are said to underachieve at school.
The study – What Helps? What Hinders? – offers a series of recommendations for schools and calls for training to ensure school staff can recognise both the medical characteristics of epilepsy and the learning and psychosocial difficulties. The charity is offering free online training resources for schools.
David Ford, chief executive, said: “Epilepsy is still very much misunderstood and it’s a sad fact that children often pay the price for this lack of understanding. For too many children, poor academic performance has become part of a culture of low expectation.
“We know from experience that where professional staff are provided with a little more information and work together, it can dramatically improve a child’s education.”
Elsewhere, a report from the Driver Youth Trust, a dyslexia charity, has found that three in four teachers believe they lack the skills needed to properly support students with the condition.
Half of teachers in its survey also say they have had no training in how to spot the signs of dyslexia, despite the fact that one in 10 of the population is thought to have the condition.
The report, The Fish in the Tree, calls on the government to amend the Children and Families’ Bill currently going through Parliament to include provision for a mandatory module on SEN within all initial teacher training courses. It also wants all SENCOs to have a mandatory minimum level of training around supporting literacy difficulties.
For Young Epilepsy’s resources, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.youngepilepsy.org.uk