Epilepsy and Learning Difficulties: Finding Solutions

If your child with epilepsy has learning difficulties, you are not alone. Compared with their peers, children with epilepsy are more likely to face challenges with acquiring knowledge or skills through experience or study. By understanding the issues, you’ll be in the best position to help.

Many Factors Affect Learning

Several factors may be in play. The first is the seizures themselves. Seizures may interfere with learning by interrupting the child’s school day or causing school absence.

Medical testing, procedures and therapies may also interfere with school attendance, making it difficult for children to keep up academically.

Simply knowing that a seizure may occur unexpectedly can affect a child’s confidence, independence and self-sufficiency, increasing the risk for depression or anxiety. When struggling with these issues, a child may have trouble thinking quickly, remaining focused, solving problems and making decisions.

[READ: COVID-19, Seizures and Epilepsy]

Seizures and Medication

If seizures are continuing despite treatment with medication, speak with your child’s doctor about the possibilities. Are there promising medications which have not yet been tried? Could your child possibly benefit from other treatments such as the ketogenic diet, vagus nerve stimulation or epilepsy surgery? Consulting with an epilepsy specialist may be the next step.

Another factor to consider is the effect of the seizure medications. Some medications are more likely to be part of the learning problem than others.

Although it’s not the case for everyone, some children who take topiramate may process information more slowly and have more difficulty expressing themselves, resulting in a need for special help in school. And some children who take levetiracetam experience mood disturbance and decreases in emotional and behavioral control, requiring classroom time for behavioral management.

If you’re wondering whether your child’s medication may be affecting learning or behavior, bring this up directly with the doctor. The good news is that there are many effective seizure medications available today, and a change in your child’s regimen may well be a positive option.

[READ: Keto Diet for Epilepsy: What to Know]

Cause of Epilepsy Plays a Role

Finally, the underlying cause of the epilepsy may itself be playing a role. Most children with epilepsy are completely healthy in every other way, and the epilepsy is an isolated issue resulting from a genetic difference in the way their body regulates the electrical control system in the brain.

But some children have epilepsy due to a birth injury, stroke, infection or irregularity in the way the brain formed prior to birth. Sometimes these underlying conditions manifest later with both epilepsy and a learning difference.

Recognizing baseline abilities and challenges will help educators craft a learning program that is best suited to the student’s individual strengths and abilities.

[READ: CBD Oil for Treating Epilepsy]

Assessing Learning Abilities

For any child with epilepsy who is struggling to learn, a comprehensive assessment of their learning profile may clarify specific cognitive strengths and weaknesses that may not be apparent day to day. The assessment is performed by a neuropsychologist who will conduct detailed testing, interpret the results in relation to the child’s epilepsy and provide recommendations and guidance for an individualized school plan and other support outside of the school setting.

If your child with epilepsy is experiencing learning difficulties, consider the following actions:

— Talk with your doctor about options for improving seizure control if the seizures are not at bay.

— Bring up any concerns you may have about a possible negative effect of your child’s current medication.

— Ask your doctor whether the underlying cause of the epilepsy could be playing a role.

— Consider moving forward with neuropsychological testing to assist with the development of a specialized school plan.

Children with epilepsy are certainly able to learn, but the methods used to support their learning sometimes must be optimized. By collaborating with the doctor, teachers and a neuropsychologist, parents can help close any gaps and achieve the best results.

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Epilepsy and Learning Difficulties: Finding Solutions originally appeared on usnews.com

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