Community Forum

student had a seizure, I think

I am currently a student teacher, and I swear one of my students had either an absence or a simple partial seizure recently. While working with him one on one, I caught him staring intently into space for about 15 to 20 seconds, and this was followed by him shaking his head as if to clear it for a minute or two, acting very confused, and embarrassedly muttering about "sometimes forgetting things" because he couldn't recall anything we had been talking about.

I grew up with frequent seizures (simple and mostly complex partial seizures) from ages 7-23. I had surgery at age 23 and thankfully have been seizure-free since. But I immediately recognized the aura, seizure, and post-ictal recovery because that was me for years. 

Now, I'm not a neurologist, so I am exercising some caution and acceptance about reporting what I observed. I could easily be wrong! Even so, when I mentioned it to my mentor teacher, she claimed that he just goes into dazes and that it's more a behavior problem than anything. He's always done that, and he has no history of epilepsy. Just ignore it; it's ADHD. The sense that I got from her was that she thinks he's just daydreaming and trying to get out of doing his work, so don't humor him.

I feel so unsettled about her response though. I mean, I know what I saw, and it wasn't daydreaming. I teach in a school specifically for students with emotional/behavioral disabilities including some students with Aspergers, ADHD, bipolar disorder, learning disabilities, etc. So this kid is already enrolled in special education services. I want to mention the boy's "episode" to my principal, but I don't know if I should let it drop since my mentor teacher told me to just ignore it. At the same time, I'd hate the idea that he has undiagnosed and unmedicated epilepsy though, and I never said anything. Any advice?



As a person with a history of this type of epilepsy you are in a better position than most to spot what may be possible symptoms.  I think you should discuss your concerns with someone who could arrange for a proper evaluation.  If the student does have frequent untreated seizures then medication or other treatment could make a huge difference to his quality of life and education.  




Thanks. That gives me some peace of mind about mentioning it beyond my mentor teacher. My mother told me that it's none of my business, and that I should just leave it be. The welfare of students is educators' business though. And it's not fair to accuse a kid of daydreaming and dock his participation grade if he might be having a seizure! Of course, he might not be. If he is seizing, better to catch it now at age 14 rather than 16 when he gets a car or whatever.

Babble follows: You could consider handing the student a slip of paper listing two books: Nerves In Collision by Walter C. Alvarez, M.D. (about the many epilepsies) and the How To (understand) Hyperactivity book (1981) about ADHD Inattentive / central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) by C. Thomas Wild. Possible insights (no cures). You could also write a message along the lines of you might wish to talk it over with your parents and perhaps see the family doctor, explain the symptoms, and let the family doctor take it from there. The biggest problem I see is what follows after a correct diagnosis - whatever that diagnosis turns out to be. There can be no easy answers in all cases for the symptoms you describe. If the student finds a good answer/a partial answer, the student will likely be most grateful but if the student does not find a good answer/a partial answer, the student may misinterpret everything and view it as a waste of time, etc. A person can try to be careful in what they say along the lines of disclaiming they are not a doctor/they are not giving advice/whatever and also that they may or may not be in the ballpark at all - they may be 100% wrong/100% right or somewhere in the middle and the student can accept or reject what the teacher says - it's up to the student/his parents. It really can be a touchy subject (my view) for some persons but the two books mentioned (Alvarez, Wild) do address the general area with insights here and there (no cures). A person can also ask the student to show the slip of paper to his parents and then perhaps think about it for several days, a week or so/whatever prior to making a decision about anything. That tends to give the student some breathing room and likely reduces the pressure and shock of hearing something along the lines of the possibility that the student may have a neurological challenge like one of the many epilepsies, the 4 ADHDs, a sports concussion/whatever, etc. It's likely a teacher has no idea whether the parents have already had the child looked at by a doctor and perhaps made a decision to not treat it/simply monitor it/whatever. There are so many variables involved it seems to me. If everything goes according to plan with a good outcome, it's good; if everything goes differently - the student is mislabled or misdiagnosed and asked to try drugs which are inappropriate, then it's a different story. There are a lot of professionals who really lack knowledge about the many epilepsies, etc., so it can be very easy to waste a lot of time and money in the process of securing a correct diagnosis. I tend to think if you give the info to the student and let the student know any decision to do/not do anything is up to him/his parents (not you) that the student will feel better about the conversation. Old saying: You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. Some parents understand the epilepsies and others don't. It is such a delicate topic (my view). You can mention to the student that there are a number of neurological discussion groups on the internet/www and maybe the student (with his parents) might visit those websites and ask a few questions. Good luck. End of babble.

I don't think it would be wise to mention it to the student or to his parents. I was merely thinking about mentioning it to the administrators at school who can address it however they please.

My guess is that if you mention it to the administrators of the school, they will likely ignore it 100% unless they can figure out a way for someone other than the school to pay for it/a workup/an evaluation. It's very likely this student will simply fall through the cracks of the system or the parents encouraged to take care of it outside of the school system at their own expense perhaps during summer vacation. I hope I'm wrong but I tend to feel many administrators will simply symbolically toss the situation into a trash can and then swear nothing has ever been said about it at all (aka shred the evidence). Precedent: By the way, I do very much understand why your mother said it was none of your business. It is such a delicate topic and can very easily open up a can of worms so to speak - at least in today's politically correct society (my view). The student is only 14 and likely may not understand what is behind the involuntary forgetting. Also, a correct diagnosis is not always an automatic gateway to effective treatment. I do believe that the student will, at some time in his life, likely figure it out. It may not be today but sooner or later enough data/evidence will pile up that the student comprehends the situation. Thank you for sharing what you believe may be happening. It certainly displays the difference between a mentor teacher's approach to the topic vs yours - as a student teacher - who has some awareness of what may be going on.

Our Mission

The mission of the Epilepsy Foundation is to lead the fight to overcome the challenges of living with epilepsy and to accelerate therapies to stop seizures, find cures, and save lives.

24/7 helpline