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“What do I do if a student has a seizure?” While that thought may not cross every first year teachers mind, it certainly does cross your mind the second you find out there is a student prone to seizures in your classroom. But please also note that just because you are not aware that a student has previously had seizures, it could happen to any typical, healthy child in your class at any time! That’s why today’s post is going to share how to handle student seizures.
For those of you who are new here, I am NOT a doctor. Therefore the information in this post is meant as a starting point for teachers and educators to learn a bit more about seizures before going out and getting more knowledge about their particular student. Please talk to the child’s family, chat with the child’s doctor (if you have a release form and feel you need to), and get educated.
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There are many different types of seizures. You may have a student in your class who suffers from absence seizures, which may not be as serious as the ones I’m going to describe here today. (Although ANY seizure is serious by my personal standards!) Below, we’ll go through some steps to consider if you have a student who may have a grand mal seizure, or tonic-clonic. Please remember that I am not a doctor, so make sure to do more research and consult your student’s physician for more information specific to that child.
1. Get Everyone On Board
First, get your administrator on board. Make sure they know you have a student who is prone to seizures. Find out if there is a district protocol, and whether the district’s blanket policy overrides a policy by an individual student. If there are other adults who are regularly in your classroom, make sure they know where to access the seizure protocol plan as well (more about that in a minute). Also make sure to note this in your sub tub. If you are fortunate enough to have a school nurse, see what resources or ideas she has to help you out.
2. Have a Plan
Once you find out a child in your classroom is seizure prone, create a plan. This is the most important step in how to handle student seizures! Sometimes the parent will bring in a seizure protocol to follow directly from the child’s neurologist. Other times something less formal, like how the parents or guardians deal with the students at home may be reported. Write down any information you are given! You may think you’re going to remember what was said, but when that first seizure happens – it gets overwhelming! Have a plan. Have it written down. And remember where you put it!
The plan may include anything from basic information to medication to administer to the student (sometimes a shot or depository). A good plan will also include emergency contact numbers, timeline information, and parent/guardian contact information.
Need a seizure protocol form? Try this one from the Epilepsy Foundation.
3. Know What To Do With Other Students
You created a plan. Great! But what’s your plan for the other students in the classroom? Will they leave the room? Will they sit and watch? Will you attend to the child having a seizure while a paraprofessional handles the rest of the class?
When I witnessed my first seizure as an adult, I was overwhelmed. Think about the age of your students. Make sure part of the plan you created in #2 has a plan for the other students. Again, make sure to follow district policy and get your administrator and/or school nurse on board. Whether you talk to the students about this plan ahead of time is another thing to discuss with your principal.
Your students may have a “code word” that tells them to go to another teacher’s classroom. Or you may have one or two students who go for help. This can be set up for ANY emergency or out-of-the-ordinary situation – someone puking, seizures, or any other myriad of things that happen regularly in classrooms.
When creating the plan, think about the age of your students. Many kids will be embarrassed after they’ve had a seizure because of what their peers may think of them. Keep this in mind when you are deciding how to handle other students who may witness the seizure.
4. Have an “After” Plan
Many times students who are prone to seizures will be exhausted after the fact. Know what you will do after their seizure. Will they be allowed to visit the school nurse and take a nap? Will parents pick the child up? Should the school be calling an ambulance to seek immediate medical attention? All of these things can be written on the plan/protocol form you created in #2.
Also have a way to contact parents. Keep those numbers in an easily accessible place – right with the seizure protocol. Unless policy or protocol says otherwise, it’s best to contact parents as soon as you can after the seizure has taken place. Get an administrator to do this if necessary.
Try to keep as calm as possible for your other students. They may be overwhelmed and scared if they know what just happened. This is normal! Like I said before, I was pretty shaken up for a couple of hours as an adult when I witnessed my first seizure. It’s a scary time. But it’s important for students to know that these types of things can happen. Here are two books you may want to purchase to help your students better understand seizures and what they mean for their classmates: Taking Seizure Disorders to School and Understanding Special Needs Kids: Seizures.
While seizures typically do not happen in healthy children, they certainly can. Many times students that are hitting puberty may experience seizures – so anticipate this in girls as young as fourth grade or kids up to about ninth grade. Obviously students that have had seizures previously in life are more susceptible, but a seizure can happen to anyone – even adults in the building.
The key thing to remember with how to handle student seizures is to keep calm. Have a plan in place beforehand, if at all possible. Chances are, the student will be fine. Yes, it can be scary, but everything will be ok.