Nansi Thomas is five and has temporal lobe epilepsy, having several seizures day and night. She was finally diagnosed at the age of three after a long time of suspected epilepsy. Nansi’s condition brings with it includes significant behavioural problems and a recent associated diagnosis of autism. “She finds school very overwhelming and struggles to concentrate, listen and even eat lunch in busy environments,” says mum Libby. “After a seizure, she may need to sleep for up to an hour afterwards. She needs constant help and support so she can function in school and have a happy school life.”
Staff at Ysgol Pencae, a primary school in Cardiff, met the Thomas family before Nansi started school in September 2016. From the outset, they were fully engaged with her epilepsy.
“We discussed her needs and everyone made us feel so positive. They have since provided one-to-one care for Nansi within the school without any official statement of special educational need. Nansi has a very individualised and nurturing environment, both within and close to the classroom. She has been given specialist equipment, as advised by healthcare professionals. When she has a seizure, the school call Libby to reassure her that Nansi is sleeping and they will manage. As Libby explains, “She recovers well after these events and the staff make a huge effort for her to stay in school, rather than come home. She is encouraged to undertake her work in a sometimes more individualised way that keeps her calm and stimulated.”
To give Nansi the best start at school, Ysgol Pencae involved many professionals including epilepsy specialist nurses, occupational therapists and educational psychologists. “They support Nansi’s care plan and are constantly updating her individualised educational plan with realistic targets.”
The school has put in place several supportive measures for her which have increased Nansi’s confidence and cooperation. “She has the most amazing one to one, Mrs Nerys Evans,” says Libby. “Nansi feels so secure with her, and she also talks very fondly of Miss Burnell, Miss Osborne, Mrs Tate and Mrs Le Bon. They all know her well and, with their support and knowledge of her condition, school has become a very happy and secure place for Nansi. The head master, Mr Thomas, is unbelievable in his role, as is the very special SENCO Mrs Bethan Reynolds, who has guided us through the application for a SEN and supported us a family from the very start. They are accessible and approachable at all times.”
“The changes in Nansi since she started at Ysgol Pencae have been amazing,” says Libby. “In reception she really struggled with the new setting and particularly the busy class environment. She often used to leave the classroom to find quiet space. She was also frightened when she had one of her "funny turns" (focal seizures) because she didn't know who to turn to for reassurance.
Libby and husband Gareth love seeing Nansi so settled in school.
“She’s now much more part of the class and sits within the group to focus on tasks and play games. She has lots of meaningful friendships in school and is a valued member of the class now. She has her own work station and quiet tent she can do her work at if she's too distracted. The change in her behaviour and motivation has been dramatic and so pleasing for us all. A recent parents’ evening was so emotional for us, to hear just how bright and capable she is. We will be forever grateful for Ysgol Pencae's input and patience. I used to be so worried about her attending school but now I know how they care for her, and I know she's in safe hands. The school is inspirational!”