Problems with attendance and inclusion at school for children with epilepsy, study indicates

1 Nov 2021

Children with epilepsy and their parents feel that they are less included

in playground activities than children without epilepsy, a new study, published in the journal Seizure, suggests.

The study aimed to better understand whether children with epilepsy, their parents and school staff feel these children are included and able to participate at school.

The research, carried out by researchers from Young Epilepsy and Great Ormond Street Hospital, included 68 families and 56 staff members. Staff in mainstream schools were found to be more worried about attendance for children with epilepsy than staff in special schools. Two-fifths (41%) of parents said their child was currently or had experienced difficulties attending school. While most staff and parents agreed that the children with epilepsy were included in classroom activities as much as children without epilepsy, this wasn’t the case for playground activities. Parents were significantly less likely than staff members to feel their child was included in playground activities. Parents were also more confident in their child’s inclusion at school at special schools compared with mainstream schools.

Parents worried that children may be excluded from activities at school due to staff decisions, the child’s own choice or exclusion by other children, the research showed. Almost two-thirds (64%) of children felt restricted in their activities at school due to their epilepsy and over half (56%) of parents agreed.

Parents and children with epilepsy reported bullying at school, but most did not put this down to their epilepsy. Parents were more likely than school staff to agree that their child was being bullied because of their epilepsy or another reason. Parents were also more likely to feel this way if their child went to mainstream school compared with special school.

Study authors Emma Johnson and her colleagues stressed that attendance problems for children with epilepsy can lead to academic, social and emotional difficulties. The researchers suggest that issues with taking part, bullying and friendships may be down to other health conditions rather than their epilepsy itself. They concluded that we need to better understand the effect of epilepsy on school life in order to improve attendance and reduce bullying.

The full study is available on the Seizure journal website.


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