Epilepsy Talk

Special Education — Expectations and the Law | September 8, 2013

Special educational ensures that your child needs are met (legally) if they have learning difficulties that need special help at school.

Technically, it’s called a special education provision.

And there may be a special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) at the school who can look at your child’s needs, alongside the school’s governing body (often the local authority’s education department).

If your child needs extra help, you, the school or the local authority can ask to have a statutory assessment which may produce a “statement of special educational needs”.

Parent Partnership Services (PPS) are funded by the Department of Education and give information, advice and support to parents and caretakers of children and young people with special educational needs.

They also provide information on how individual needs are identified by schools and the local authority.

Children who have seizures and learning difficulties often require a highly structured environment…

It’s important to use consistent ways of interacting and patterned use of language…

Teachers should try to build predictability and routine into the classroom environment…

Instructional language is very important. It should be simple, clear, and consistent so the child knows what is expected of them…

The best way to teach children with attention or memory difficulties is using direct, one-on-one instruction…

Consistency in the routine comes first…

Set clear rules and expectations in the classroom…

Post a schedule for the day that the child can follow visually…

Seat the child near the front of the classroom to help them focus and avoid distraction…

Use visual tools to teach, such as charts and illustrations…

Ask the child to repeat back instructions to be sure they understand them…

Ensure that the student masters the skill being taught before moving on…

Use physical prompts like pointing to the part of the page being read or covering up sections of a page…

Allow extra time for tests and assignments and give the child extra time to respond in class…

Provide extra help with problem areas…

Give less written work…

Develop a system in which other students in the class can act as peer tutors…

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The (IDEA) is a federal law that says every child with a disability is entitled to a free, appropriate education in the least restrictive (most “normal”) setting possible.

This means that your child has the right to be educated in the classroom with children who do not have disabilities, to the maximum extent that such placement meets your child’s educational needs.

They also have the right to be included in social activities and other activities provided by the school.

And you have the right to be directly involved in the process of planning your child’s education.

All states that receive federal funds under this Act must follow the rules for identifying, evaluating, and providing services to eligible children between 3 and 21 years of age.

In some children, although their epilepsy is not disabling and their intelligence is normal, other problems may require special attention.

These include impairments of attention, reading, arithmetic learning, motor skills, memory, and behavior.

They’re often identified at a young age, permitting early intervention and treatment.

IDEA also requires that schools provide all the additional services needed to help children with disabilities benefit from special education.

These related services include transportation, audiology and speech therapy, psychological evaluation and treatment, physical and occupational therapy, recreation, therapeutic recreation, social work services, counseling, early identification and assessment of disabling conditions, and medical evaluations.

For children with epilepsy, related services include education for teachers and school nurses about epilepsy, how to administer medications, and first aid for seizures.

Ideally, this education will be extended to include classmates, because social acceptance may be one of the greatest challenges for children with epilepsy.

The Individualized Education Program (IEP)

IDEA states that a child with disabilities must have a written individualized educational plan called (IEP) which is constructed jointly by you and school personnel.

It’s a written report describing your child’s present level of development.

That includes, the short-term and annual goals of the special education program, the specific educational services your child will receive and also, the date services will start and their expected duration.

Also, it should develop standards for determining whether the goals of the educational program are being met, and the extent to which your child will be able to participate in regular educational programs.

Before or during the IEP process, you should explore available educational programs, including public, private, federal, state, county, and municipal programs.

Observe classes and see for yourself which program is best suited for your child.

You may bring a spouse, doctor, teacher, advocate, and others for support if you don’t want to attend the IEP meeting alone.

And you should be aware of the actions of everyone involved in your child’s case.

It’s also important for you to be an assertive and persuasive advocate for your child during the IEP process.

This doesn’t mean that all school officials are adversaries, but it does mean that parents are a child’s most important advocates, you know your child best.

Unless you request specific services such as physical therapy, speech therapy, or a barrier-free school, such needs may be overlooked.

The education coordinator of your local Epilepsy Foundation office should be able to help you with the process.

Also, as a parent, you are entitled to a copy of the IEP, and should request it if it’s not offered.

And there are channels for filing an appeal if they don’t agree with your child’s plan.

Unfortunately, you’ll sometimes run into roadblocks in trying to arrange educational services for your child.

Schools may be short-staffed, not want to give your child needed medication, or refuse to modify school policies on grades, tests, etc. for your child.

They might feel it’s too much of a risk to allow your child to participate in a trip or activity.

Even if you have the right to such things by law, you might need to “advocate” or push for them.

See the Epilepsy Foundation’s “Legal Rights of Children with Epilepsy in School & Child Care: An Advocate’s Manual” for information on how to proceed.

Daycare Options

If your child is in day care, you’ll want to work with the caregivers to make sure they understand what epilepsy is and how to handle a seizure.

Again, visit the Epilepsy Foundation’s website’s “Living with Epilepsy” section for information and tools you can use.

Parents of infants and toddlers with epilepsy sometimes have a hard time finding child care while they work.

Most day care centers and pre-schools aren’t public or run by the government.

Many are private businesses, with each one setting many of its own rules and policies.

Some have used this independence to deny admission to children with epilepsy or to refuse to give them emergency anti-seizure medication.

However, The Americans with Disabilities Act applies to private centers as well.

And the Epilepsy Foundation has joined lawsuits against centers that refuse to give children emergency medication, noting that the medication requires no medical training to administer and could save a child’s life.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504

Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 provides education rights for children and adults with disabilities.

Although provisions of Section 504 and IDEA overlap somewhat, Section 504 is primarily an anti-discrimination law, which says that it is illegal for any program or activity receiving federal funding, to exclude or discriminate against qualified people with handicaps.

It also requires that reasonable accommodations be made by educational institutions.

So you see, there are many services and options available to you and your child. And you’re not alone.

You’ve got plenty of support behind you.Take advantage of the resources available.

Start with the Epilepsy Foundation which can help advocate your child’s needs.

Then do your own research to determine the right school and program for your child.

Another article of interest: Epilepsy in School https://epilepsytalk.com/2013/09/02/epilepsy-in-school/

To subscribe to Epilepsytalk.com and get the latest articles by email, simply go to the bottom box of the right column and click on “Sign me up!”








  1. You give a lot of good information. One thing you did leave out is the option of home-schooling your child. You are right no one knows your child best but yourself and who better to look out for the child’s best interests but their parent. Why would one throw their child into the care/trust of strangers for 6-8 hours a day, “hoping” they’re given a fair education and treated right? Yes, it’s more work for the parent; especially if the child needs therapies(e/g speech, p.t). However, when the parent is taking said child to therapies, at least they’re getting a full session, as opposed to a public school, giving 20 minutes IF you’re lucky, and probably NOT one-on-one. Isn’t a parent’s number one job to raise up that child right?


    Comment by Heidi — September 9, 2013 @ 7:20 AM

  2. Wow. That was quite an “oversight”! Thank you Heidi, and please forgive me. (Can I use the excuse that I never had any kids? Not because of epilepsy, but because of my charming childhood.)

    About 1/4 of the moms in my support group either home-school their children and/or go to school with them.

    Aides are just babysitters…

    And I do believe it’s best to be present for special therapies. Just as you have to be your child’s advocate.

    That being said, I think many moms aren’t “equipped” for the job. Many have to work. And there is the question of socialization.

    How do you deal with the “isolation” factor?


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 9, 2013 @ 8:57 AM

  3. I have had some, still have, learning issues that made it difficult for me to understand what I read and to write about, but not until this semester, my English 1A, college level reading and writing, instructor gave me some helpful hints to improve my reading skill by having annotate the text I am reading: ask questions to things that I am unfamiliar with, look up words, and to go to her or ask a tutor if I really don’t understand anything. But as for Elementary and High school age, some of the teachers, this is my opinion, don’t know that everyone learns differently. Thanks for listening.


    Comment by crystal cahill — September 5, 2014 @ 2:48 PM

  4. Crystal, it’s the wise person that asks questions. (Of course, you have to have enough understanding of that matter to ask the questions!)

    As for your previous teachers, how could they be teachers? (“To cause or help someone to learn about a subject by giving lessons.” THAT is a “teacher” as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary!)

    I don’t think the fault lies with you (unless shyness counts as a fault). It lies with a lack of understanding and, if I may, dedication on the part of the teachers you’ve had in the past.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 5, 2014 @ 4:56 PM

    • Not, all of my previous teachers were bad teachers but I wasn’t learning anything new. I am a slow reader when it comes to textbook reading,


      Comment by crystal cahill — September 6, 2014 @ 9:49 PM

  5. Me, too. Even novels! So, don’t take it to heart or beat up on yourself. 🙂


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 7, 2014 @ 11:44 AM

    • i know, but slowly but surely I am catching up to everyone else. We are life long learners. 🙂


      Comment by crystal cahill — September 7, 2014 @ 12:10 PM

  6. Yay! YOU ROCK GIRL! Especially with your attitude and perseverance.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 7, 2014 @ 12:57 PM

    • I did not do to badly on my writing assignment, but there are a few things that need to be worked on with it.


      Comment by crystal cahill — September 10, 2014 @ 12:17 AM

  7. Ok. You conquered your greatest fear (anticipation), now just keep at it.

    I’m proud of you for your perseverance. 🙂


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 10, 2014 @ 11:47 AM

  8. Great practical instruction to these children who feel marginalized and neglected. The cry of the hour is for dedicated instructors who put this into practice.


    Comment by Santindra Preman Seresinhe — July 27, 2015 @ 9:57 PM

  9. And everyone else in the school environment. Agree?


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 28, 2015 @ 8:58 AM

    • I agree deeply, I am not afraid of what my instructor say. i found that my instructors use constructive criticism, and I use it as a learning experience.


      Comment by crystal cahill — August 17, 2015 @ 7:23 PM

      • I can’t say the same for me. I bristle when anyone edits my copy. I take the criticism very personally. Yet, ironically, enough, I take personal criticism just fine. (???)


        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — August 18, 2015 @ 9:40 AM

  10. As a reminder for those of us who are in college, and use the Disabled Students Services, please make sure you have a copy of your student contract to have your instructor see.


    Comment by crystal cahill — August 17, 2015 @ 7:26 PM

  11. Good advice Crystal. Thanks for the heads-up.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — August 18, 2015 @ 9:41 AM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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