Working with Your Child’s Daycare and School
Everyday kid activities feature school, overnights with friends, and going to summer camp. Such activities let your child have fun while learning independence and giving them a sense of normalcy.
It also requires preparation and planning on the part of caregivers. Whether your child hangs out at a friend’s house or goes to school, you will need to talk to parents and teachers about triggers and seizure first aid.
Answering questions asked by schools and daycare
If you care for a child with epilepsy, you will gain deep experience answering questions about their condition. Common questions from daycare workers, teachers, administrators, coaches, and other parents may include:
- Is epilepsy contagious?
- What if they have a seizure?
- What do we do after a seizure?
- Will they have a seizure at my house or in my classroom?
- Are all these medicines really necessary?
- Can a child on a keto diet have X food as a treat?
- How will we handle classwork and homework during hospital stays?
You will also have to educate daycare and school personnel about the importance of following any drug and diet regimens your child needs. You also may need to make officials aware of your child’s triggers, such as flashing lights.1
Your child’s teacher may ask you to come to talk to the class about epilepsy. This gives you a chance to help their peers understand your child's needs.
Daycare and camps: common issues
Daycare centers, playgroups, and play centers offer time for learning, fun, and socialization for any child. As the parent of a child with epilepsy, you will want to:
- Talk through any accommodations your child may need
- Show staff how to give medicines to your child
- Teach them seizure first aid
- Explain your child’s seizure action plan
- Teach staff and other parents about epilepsy and your child’s special needs
As your child gets older and wants to attend a camp, you will need to conduct the same safety checks and educate camp staff.
School and epilepsy: IEP and 504 plans
Many children and teens with epilepsy can do everything other kids do and perform well academically. Some children may find school more challenging.
An individualized education program (IEP) or 504 plan spells out how a student will be accommodated at school. These plans document things like how the school will handle long absences, extra learning time, or taking anti-seizure drugs.
IEPs were established under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 created 504s. IDEA requires that public schools provide free, appropriate education to students with disabilities. Section 504 prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities if an organization receives federal money. IEPs are generally used for students with a health condition that impacts their ability to learn. A 504 plan is used for students who need accommodations at school.
You can request an IEP or 504 plan for your child. Different school systems recommend one type of plan over another. Ask your school which plan will help your student the most. This is something you will have to do at the start of each school year.
Your epilepsy care team may need to send a letter to the school explaining how epilepsy affects your child. This letter will also recommend any necessary accommodations. Your school will hold a meeting to hammer out the plan. This meeting will include parents, epilepsy care team members, and the child, if they are old enough.
What should be included in an IEP or 504 plan?
Each child’s IEP or 504 plan should fit their unique needs. Examples of what should be included in an IEP or 504 plan include:1,2
- The children’s seizure action plan
- Supportive services your child may need
- Allowing the child to take medicines on their own, or allowing trips to the nurse’s office
- Plans for homework and tutoring during absences and hospital stays
- Feeding special foods if the child is on a special diet
- Providing a quiet place to recover after a seizure
- Helping the child avoid seizure triggers
- Monitoring student behavior to prevent the child with epilepsy from being bullied
Keep in mind, private schools that do not accept federal money do not have to follow IDEA or Section 504 rules. But, they still must adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Talk with school officials, teachers, and other parents to find out how flexible your school is in meeting the needs of students with health issues.2
Getting help with school issues
The Epilepsy Foundation offers many resources to help families with school issues, including:
- Toll-free support at 1-800-332-1000 or email at email@example.com.
- Downloadable information for parents about childcare and school accommodations.
- Downloadable seizure first aid materials available in 9 languages to share with friends, family, and schools.
- Seizure First Aide app teaches people how to recognize different types of seizures and tells them what to do to help.
- Online and in-person training for educators and school nurses. These courses may qualify for continuing education credits.
- Legal support.
Your local Epilepsy Foundation office may be able to help you learn more about school accommodations in your state.