LIVING WITH EPILEPSY/SCHOOL: LEARNING AND BEHAVIOR – PSYCHOLOGICAL AND SOCIAL PROBLEMS

A child’s performance at school is, to a large extent, determined by the child’s feelings about himself. The child who thinks that he is dumb will frequently act and perform as if he is. He is unlikely to perform at his best level. The child who is depressed because of her seizures, because of his family’s reaction to the seizures, or for other reasons is likely to do less well in school. Indeed, a drop in school performance may be one of the early signs of childhood depression.
But a child’s school performance is also affected by what others think of him. Children, and even rats, tend to perform up to the levels of expectation. In a classic psychological experiment, researchers who were given rats to test, and who were told that they were studying “dumb rats,” found that the rats did less well on testing than when they were studying “smart rats.” This was true even when the “smart rats” and the “dumb rats” were brothers and sisters from the same litters with identical intelligence.

This can present a problem for the child with epilepsy and for that child’s parents. If the child’s teacher expects the child with epilepsy to have learning problems, then those problems are more likely to be found, whether they are present or not. On the other hand, a teacher who is aware that your child could have a learning problem is also more likely to identify the problem early and to be more sensitive to it. Therefore, telling the teacher about your child’s epilepsy and about any concerns you may have about your child’s learning could be an advantage to your child.
Make sure that the teacher understands about your child’s type of seizures and that she makes you aware of any concerns she may have about your child and about any changes in your child’s performance. These could be due to changes in medication or in the frequency or type of seizures. Mutual trust between you and your child’s teacher and exchange of information and concerns can serve to benefit your child.
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