Schools' ignorance 'isolating epileptics'

SCHOOLCHILDREN with epilepsy in Scotland are being left isolated and shunned because of a lack of understanding about their condition.

Experts believe that, despite one in 100 children suffering epilepsy, awareness among teachers and pupils in some areas remains low.

Campaigners now want to roll out a scheme across schools in Scotland where visiting fieldworkers would educate pupils and staff about the condition in the hope that children can be helped to feel less isolated.

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The call for greater awareness comes at the start of Epilepsy Week .

Helen MacDonald, an epilepsy fieldworker and tutor with the charity Quarriers, has been visiting secondary schools in North Lanarkshire for several years.

She said the lessons have significantly improved their knowledge, as well as helping pupils with epilepsy integrate with their classmates.

MacDonald said: "In each class I always ask if anyone knows someone with epilepsy. There are between two and six children who raise their hands, but they don't really know what it is.

"There is still a stigma and a lot of problems can develop because of it, which are psychological, social and emotional effects. Isolation often happens, lack of confidence, and self-esteem and panic in classes as well."

MacDonald said the lessons helped staff and pupils know how to react if a child suffered an epileptic seizure and how to support them.

But MacDonald said it was not just children who needed to be educated about epilepsy – sometimes schools did not know how to cope either.

"A mother approached me because her child was at the age just to start school and she was told by the school that they could not come to the school," she said.

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"That was down to a lack of understanding and a panic about how they could cope with a seizure. In that case it was simple – I approached the school and went in and trained up the staff."

Paul Moore, chief executive of Quarriers, said: "We estimate that it would cost around 160,000 to roll this out to all first-year pupils across Scotland's secondary schools.

"We would welcome the opportunity to work with teachers, schools and local authorities to build this awareness into the curriculum for every child."