Navigating My Education With Epilepsy
Last updated: August 2023
Many students who have journeyed through all levels of education carry with them stories of their experiences. And the opportunity for advanced education, such as obtaining a college degree, remains crucial for success in today's workforce and beyond.
In the realm of education, particularly at the college and university level, many students opt not to disclose their disabilities. I found myself initially oblivious of the potential accommodations for my epilepsy and learning needs. And for the need for increased understanding and the right guidance.
This lack of awareness influenced my educational journey from fifth grade through university.
Always having to explain my epilepsy
Throughout this period, I often needed to explain my epilepsy, even though I had documentation submitted to my schools from an early age. Both faculty members and even the principal were aware of my epilepsy due to my parents' communication and consistently providing updated documents. This led to my placement in specific classes that could assist me with my learning disability.
But honestly, I don't think I needed those classes or the experiences they brought.
Always feeling "different" with epilepsy
The more I grew, the more I understood my condition. While I recognized the term "seizures," the concept of "epilepsy" remained somewhat elusive. With the passing years and my entry into middle school, I grappled with the impact of my early educational experiences, which, unfortunately, left a significant mark – not all positive.
Don't misunderstand me, there were certainly positive aspects to my educational journey, but the shadow of being different loomed over me, even when I hadn't fully grasped my own uniqueness. It's curious how even when you don't realize you're different, others still might think you are.
Learning disabilities don't fit 1 mold
But regardless of my medical challenges, 1 thing was certain: I had a good education and did not neatly fit the mold of a stereotypical disabled student.
Still, there were plenty of preconceived notions, causing me discomfort in how I was perceived. It's an unfortunate reality that even if we're proving our success – these misconceptions are still there. People still put these assumptions on you.
High school years
Years passed, and I officially entered the years of teenage-hood, which meant high school. This brought with it increased independence and thinking about the future. At that time, I wasn't thinking about college. I just wanted to graduate high school in the most ordinary way possible, which I did.
However, I had to put my pride aside and discuss my disorder with teachers, detailing its impact, effects, and even what steps to take if a seizure were to occur unexpectedly.
Will a seizure happen at school? Will I be judged?
I don't think a seizure ever occurred, but the thoughts of "what if" did always sprinkle in some anxiety. During this period of growth and success, I was fortunate to encounter a teacher who recognized and nurtured my gift for journalism – and it didn't matter if I was a disabled student.
Unfortunately, this journey can sometimes be marked by confusion and unease, prompting introspection about derogatory stereotypes and narratives surrounding individuals with disabilities. This process may involve learning how stereotypes can shape one's self-image, along with the emotions of social seclusion. Constantly fighting against assumptions about disabilities, and then the shock when they realize we are very much determined and have academic capabilities.
Fighting stereotypes about epilepsy and learning disabilities
Such negative assumptions frequently appear within social, educational, and professional settings. Students grappling with hidden conditions like epilepsy or learning disabilities encounter particular challenges. Someone born with an invisible disability comes with a whole journey of constantly overcoming one form of arm-twisting or another.
When I entered the college and university environment, I experienced a blend of surprise and relief as I received consistent support each semester through tailored accommodations for my classes. And I still chose to privately disclose my condition to select professors – but not all, due to my history of mistrust.
And it all worked out. I graduated from university a year early and am now a journalist. Imagine that.
"Your present circumstances don't determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start." –Nido Qubein
Since being diagnosed with epilepsy, has your memory been impacted?