Why We Should Empower Youth With Epilepsy Education
Last spring, I joined my daughter Journey’s fifth grade class as a volunteer on her field trip. I had the pleasure of watching a classmate approach Journey who was taking photos of a museum exhibit. The classmate suggested she turn off the camera flash; he was concerned that it could trigger one of her seizures. I was overcome with pride and appreciation for the caring, supportive community we have created in partnership with the school administration.
Journey was diagnosed with epilepsy as an infant. As she gets older, her seizures are increasingly more pronounced and difficult to manage. Two years ago, Journey’s classmates became much more aware of and impacted by her seizures. It was important to our family that Journey’s peers not fear Journey or her seizures. We approached the school about educating her classmates to increase their understanding of Journey’s experience and provide them with the tools to help if they saw her have a seizure.
We enlisted Susan Harrison, Executive Director of The Epilepsy and Seizure Disorder Resource Centre of South Eastern Ontario to teach all students in Journey’s grade about epilepsy and different types of seizures. Susan discussed how it might feel to have a seizure and how to be a friend to someone with epilepsy. She covered a number of topics, including how only some people with epilepsy, like Journey, are triggered by flashing lights. The kids learned that they could each play a role in helping someone having a seizure by getting an adult, removing furniture or other hazards from around the person, timing the seizure to ensure it doesn’t last more than five minutes, staying close and reassuring the person as their seizure finishes.
Susan’s presentation inspired a school-wide epilepsy awareness initiative; Journey and four friends formed the school’s first ‘Purple Crew.’ This team of students was responsible for running an annual Purple Day campaign, joining an international grass roots effort to raise epilepsy awareness on March 26. The first campaign included a presentation at a school assembly where the Purple Crew shared some of the information they learned about epilepsy and challenged each class to join the campaign, wear purple, and collect donations for epilepsy education efforts in our community.
(Article Continues at Huff Post)