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Epilepsy Australia

Less than 5% of the 9,500 schools across Australia have received epilepsy specific training

Less than 5% of the 9,500 schools Across Australia have received epilepsy specific training

Epilepsy Australia urges more schools to adopt Epilepsy Smart School program 
so students can live free of stigma and discrimination.


In the lead up to International Epilepsy Day on February 11, 2019, Epilepsy Australia is urging Australian schools to adopt the Epilepsy Smart School program, as less than 5 percent of the 9,500 schools across the nation are properly trained in coping with and understanding the needs of students with epilepsy.

National President of Epilepsy Australia, the peak coalition of Epilepsy organisations, Wendy Groot, says of nearly 4 million students aged 4-18 years across Australia, it is estimated that 19,201 live with epilepsy, or 1 in 200. Epilepsy is also in the top 3 (after asthma and diabetes) of health conditions for school children and is in the top 5 of avoidable causes of death in people aged 5 to 29.

“These alarming statistics reinforce the need for schools to exercise their duty of care under the Australian Government’s Disability Standards for Education 2005 framework, to create safe and supportive educational environments for the thousands of students with epilepsy. However, only 475 schools across the country currently meet these requirements, despite epilepsy specific training being readily available.”

“The Epilepsy Smart Schools program helps schools establish inclusive, safe and educationally sound practices for the benefit of all primary, secondary and special school students.”

According to Ms Groot, there are three steps to becoming a recognised Epilepsy Smart School:

1. Hold specific epilepsy management plans for each of the school’s students with epilepsy
2. Participate in epilepsy specific training
3. Hold an event that promotes better awareness and understanding of epilepsy.

“Considering 0.5% of the student population live with epilepsy, within which there are over 40 different types of the condition experienced, it is imperative schools take an individualised approach to meet each student’s needs,” says Ms Groot.

“First aid training is not enough – beyond seizures and daily medication, teachers need to understand the psychological, social and cognitive impact epilepsy can have and adapt their teaching methods accordingly.“

Anecdotally, the impact of epilepsy cognition and learning :
cognitive overload (e.g., finding it hard to keep up at school) can cause seizures
seizures can also make it difficult to concentrate and remember new information
memory difficulties can be a side effect of medication
some children with epilepsy also have a co-existing developmental condition (e.g., Autism).

Obstacles commonly faced by children with epilepsy at school :
not being able to participate in activities, such as sports and camps
missing classes/ school days
embarrassment due to seizures, seizure behaviours or accidents
anxiety, depression and moodiness, including anger and frustration from seizures or medication.

“It is incredibly important that we see a change in the number of schools that are Epilepsy Smart. If a student has epilepsy, more than 95 percent of schools would not be equipped to understand and modify education strategies, which is simply not good enough.”

Since 2017, Epilepsy Australia has expanded the program so that all Australian schools are eligible to become recognised as an Epilepsy Smart School.
Epilepsy Australia is working towards all schools eventually becoming Epilepsy Smart Schools to ensure safe, inclusive and supportive environments for students living with epilepsy.

For more information on how to become an Epilepsy Smart School, please visit: https://www.epilepsysmartschools.org.au/

Ends


About Epilepsy Australia
Epilepsy Australia is the national coalition of Australian epilepsy organisations working together to keep communities informed on the latest medical breakthroughs, social research, publications, news and policy about epilepsy.

Epilepsy Australia’s vision is for people with epilepsy to live and participate in communities free of stigma and discrimination.

About Epilepsy
Epilepsy is a disorder of brain function that involves recurring seizures. About 4% of the population will have epilepsy at some stage of their life and its symptoms and effects are different for every person.

What is a seizure? A seizure is a sudden, uncontrolled electrical discharge in a group of brain cells (neurons). During a seizure, neurons can fire up to five hundred times a second – more than six times the normal rate and for a brief period, this can cause strange sensations, emotions and behaviour or convulsions and loss of consciousness.

Living with epilepsy is not just about managing seizures; it is learning to build resilience concerning the associated health and wellbeing impacts, economic and social participation barriers as well as issues with stigma and discrimination among the wider community. www.epilepsyfoundation.org.au/understanding-epilepsy/

Photo caption – Georgina and her daughter Sophie (aged 10 years) who worked with the team at Epilepsy Australia to make her school an Epilepsy Smart School. 

Sophie’s mother Georgina first made contact via an email she sent to her local Epilepsy organisation. She was looking for information, for her daughter Sophie who has epilepsy, as part of her condition called Tuberous Sclerosis. 

Georgina needed assistance from her local Epilepsy organisation to help document seizure plans for school and vacation care as well as education, as it had become more important, due to Sophie suffering from increased seizures occurring both day and night.

Georgina was very interested in how to get the school involved to help support Sophie, and had been in touch with the school, and they contacted Epilepsy Tasmania straight away, to organise training for staff in understanding and managing epilepsy as well as an Emergency Management Plan (EMP) importantly, so the staff know exactly what is needed from them, to support Sophie through her seizures while at school and vacation care. The Epilepsy Smart School Program creates awareness of not only the consequences of the seizures physically, also the psychosocial aspect and the effect that it creates within the home, school as well as the community.

From the school becoming epilepsy aware Sophie can participate with more activities, feel safe and know that the school understand the impact on Sophie and how to care for her when she has a seizure. Sophie has grown in confidence and is more outgoing. 

Georgina has said “We are thrilled to hear that Epilepsy Smart Schools program is being rolled out nationally, and feel that the awareness needs to be increased as well as the support. Due to Epilepsy being a life changing condition, awareness and understanding for Epilepsy is crucial to effectively look after children like Sophie”.



For media enquiries, and state based statistics please contact:
Progressive PR & Communications 
03 9696 6417 
Darren Saffin / Jodie Artis 
0411 089 209 / 0414 699 186


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UCB. (2017). Exploration of Paediatric Patients With Epilepsy in Australia. Final Presentation, November 9 2017.
UCB. (2017). Exploration of Paediatric Patients With Epilepsy in Australia. Final Presentation, November 9 2017.

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