For a teenager, an epileptic seizure could be the ultimate challenge.

And having a seizure on your first date or at your senior prom could be emotionally devastating.

But it happens to many teens—just when they are beginning to take on adult roles and responsibilities and privileges.

Fortunately, though, some of them find a level of understanding for what they are going through—and discover the support they need to make it on their own.

Case in point: Amber B., an 18-year-old high school senior has suffered from epilepsy for most of her life.

“I was about seven when I first started having seizures,” she said. “My pediatrician diagnosed me. I started out having petit mal and then grand mal. I started off staring into space. As I got older the seizures became stronger. I had my first grand mal when I was in third grade. It was the day of Halloween. We were having a party. I fell while I was getting ready for school.

“It only lasted for a minute or two. Once I got to junior high, the seizures became more frequent but they were not as bad. Then when I got to high school, I had a seizure when I was in the 10th grade and I fell in the floor.”

Luckily, Amber was surrounded by her close friends.

“I fell in front of the office. Some teachers came out. I could hear them talking around me, but I couldn’t answer them when they asked me how I was. All I could do was just lie there. My friend Tiffany somehow knew that I was okay.”

Later that year, Amber suffered another seizure. “I fell on the chairs in the band room. I knew what was going on. I could still hear the people, but I couldn’t talk.”

Amber has suffered additional attacks during the past two months. “I fall and I might lose consciousness. It’s hard to tell when I am going to have one, I just don’t know.”

What challenges does a child with epilepsy face?

“The main challenge is just to be normal when your parents and your teachers are treating you as if you are different, as if you are fragile and in danger of hurting yourself,” Amber observed. “They often think that if you try to do things like other children, you might have a seizure—that’s just not the case at all.”

Many epileptics experience the reactions of others, too. For instance, seizures and fear of seizures often affect a child’s social interactions.

“When I had a seizure in elementary school, it was kind of like show and tell,” Amber recalled of the incident. “It was interesting to everybody. But after some of the kids went home and told their parents, I noticed that some of the children stayed away from me for a while, probably thinking that my seizures might be harmful to them. Gradually, most of them realized that their first judgment was based on a misconception.”

For a teenager, however, a seizure can be an embarrassment for those who are already trying to navigate a complex social environment. “The big issues with teens with epilepsy are dating, sports and driving,” noted Amber, who recently completed her senior project on the disorder. “If someone’s seizures are active at all, he or she can’t drive. They must be seizure free to operate an automobile.”

She added, “The lack of wheels can be a real social disadvantage for teens, both in terms of dating and the ability to work, which are both major areas of identity during the teen years. And the temptations of teenage times—even alcohol and drugs—are no less real for teens with epilepsy than they are for other teenagers.”  

Meanwhile, none of the prescribed anti-seizure medications—which have improved tremendously in the past few years—are curative. And if a teen stops taking them, the seizures will surely return.

Amber currently takes four different medications, all of which seem to help keep the seizures under control.

And yet, the attacks haven’t stopped altogether. Recently, Amber underwent surgery to allow specialists to install a stimulator just under the collar bone. The device is connected to wires that extend to her brain.

“It makes my voice go away for a few seconds every five minutes,” she explained. “It helps keep my brain stimulated so that I won’t have as many seizures as I have experienced in the past.”

So far, Amber is adjusting to the new apparatus. What is more, she hopes to outgrow the symptoms of epilepsy as she gets older—another reason for her noticeable optimism.  

Still, the student continues to deal with the social stigma resulting from her affliction.

On that score, Amber offers some advice for teens suffering from a similar problem.

“Look on the bright side,” she said. “A positive attitude can make a huge difference in the way you are perceived by others. People who have seizures are no different from those who don’t have them. Once people learn what epilepsy is all about, they can benefit from that understanding.”


Source:, Tyler Barker