We exist to improve the lives
of everyone affected by epilepsy

 

School, college, university and work

If I have epilepsy will I still be able to learn?

There are a few things that might make it more difficult to learn if you have epilepsy.

Some of them are:

  • The epilepsy itself
  • The cause of the epilepsy
  • The effects of seizures
  • Side-effects from epilepsy medicines
  • Absences from school

Here are some examples of how these things could affect your learning:

  • Your epilepsy might be caused by damage to your brain. The damage may make it difficult for you to learn
  • How often you have seizures and how serious they are may affect how well your brain works. In particular, frequent or severe seizures could affect your memory
  • If your seizures mean that you’re not getting proper sleep, that lack of sleep can affect your memory and ability to think
  • You may find the side-effects of your epilepsy medicine makes you feel drowsy. This will also make it more difficult for you to learn
  • Being absent from school because of your seizures can mean that you miss out on learning  

Here are some problems with learning you might have:

  • Remembering information
  • Keeping up with the speed the teacher and other pupils are going at
  • Being able to concentrate

Will I be able to get support with my learning?

If you feel like you’re struggling with your learning or memory, it would be good to talk to your teacher or head of year, or whichever adult in school you feel okay with, about this. And of course your parents/carers too. The school may talk to you and possibly your parents/carers. They may want to talk about additional support you might need. And they may write an individual healthcare plan for you. This could help the teachers and other school staff understand what you need.

If things are especially difficult for you to take in, the school may consider extra learning support for you. This might include help from a teaching assistant.

Find out more about what to do if you are not happy with your care at school

What help can I get with school exams

School exams can be really stressful. And stress can make having a seizure more likely. So make sure you look after yourself as well as you can during this time. Find ways to relax, get regular meals and regular sleep. All this will help to reduce your risk of having a seizure.

Epilepsy Action has more information about epilepsy and wellbeing. LINK  

If you’re taking exams you may be able to get some extra help at exam time. Make sure you ask about this a long time before the exams happen. The best time is right at the beginning of the course.

Epilepsy Action has more information on education

What do I need to consider when making choices about further study and a career

There are loads of things to think about when you’re considering further or higher education. Before you decide what you want to do when you leave school, it will be useful for you to have some information about work and epilepsy.

As someone with epilepsy, you are very likely to be covered by the equality laws. This can be helpful when applying for jobs. There are two situations it would be useful for you to know about first.

  • The Armed Forces is the only organisation that is outside the equality laws. This means they have very strict rules about who can be accepted for a job. If you have a history of epilepsy you are very unlikely to be able to join
  • The epilepsy driving laws for larger vehicles like lorries, buses, coaches and sometimes taxis, are much stricter than for an ordinary car.  Epilepsy Action has more information about group 2 licences. So you need to know about those before considering the choice of long distance lorry driver for instance

Apart from these situations, the main thing to affect your choices will be how often you’re having seizures. If you haven’t had a seizure for 12 months you could apply for a driving licence. This is a useful measure of whether you would be safe to do other things like having a job looking after children, working alone or operating machinery. 

If you’re still having seizures you’ll need a risk assessment to see whether the employer will need to consider any reasonable adjustments for you. 

This might feel like a lot to think about, but it’s worth having a clear picture at this point, rather than getting your hopes up and then finding out you aren’t able to do it.

If you’re not sure what your choices might be, why not contact Epilepsy Action? We have more information on education after 16.

If you would like to see this information with references, visit the Advice and Information references section of our website. If you are unable to access the internet, please contact the Epilepsy Action Helpline on freephone 0808 800 5050.

Code: 
F118.03
Event Date: 
Thursday 26 November 2015

Epilepsy Action would like to thank epilepsy specialist nurses Neil Williamson at University Hospital Lewisham and Ruth McNulty at St Luke’s Hospital, Bradford for their contribution to this information. They have declared no conflict of interest.

This information has been produced under the terms of The Information Standard.

  • Updated June 2018
    To be reviewed June 2021

Comments: read the 2 comments or add yours

Comments

I have had complex epilepsy for 27 years, am on a max dosage of meds for life, and suffered a great deal at school due to memory problems which really impacted my learning. Also a consultant and numerous teachers constantly told me i would never achieve good grades because of my epilepsy. However I went back to university as an adult when my epilepsy became better controlled and achieved a 1st class honours degree in sport science. During stressful times I had the use of a university employed learning mentor and learned to manage my work so as not to cause an amount of stress that could induce seizures. I am now 39 and currently studying for a PhD!! Do not let your epilepsy stop you from going out and achieving your goals, go out there and reach for the stars, you are as capable as anyone else!

Submitted by Louise Berry on

Very inspirational! I have a similar story

I am almost 18 years old, and I have Epilepsy. Keppra caused severe side effects for me, I was so hypersensitive and could barely walk. In the exam period of 2017, the drugs caused a Kidney Stone that resulted in 6 days in hospital, a month of agony and 2 surgeries. This made things very hard for me considering I am in my A-Level years, and also a competitive Trampolinist. My dream was to go to Oxford to study Earth Science. Every teacher told me I should retake year 12, and that I shouldn't apply because I wouldn't cope with it. Even before that (My Epilepsy started during year 11), I was told that I might not do so well in my GCSEs.

I am now about to take my A-Levels, I hold an offer at the University of Oxford, I got 7 A* and 8 A at GCSE, predicted A*A*A and about to learn to drive.

Don't let health stop you from what you want to do. You will have bad days and they will be hard, but keep strong and shake it off. Epilepsy often doesn't prevent dreams, just makes them harder to achieve.

Submitted by Rachael on

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