Epilepsy and their related issues have always challenged the patient and the caregivers in every age group. Epilepsy is a symptom rather than the cause of the brain dysfunction. Epilepsy is the neurological condition where the person has a tendency to have seizures. The most prominent features of epilepsy are the seizures, followed by the most common consequences such as memory deficits, learning disabilities, behavioural problems; all leading to the poor social outcome. Not all seizures are epileptic. There are mainly two types of seizures: Partial Seizures and Generalized Seizures. Sometimes in a typical seizure episode, the child will be aware of what is happening or sometimes the child may be unconscious and have no memory at all of the seizure. There are more than 20 different seizure disorders. For some children, epilepsy has a genetic cause.    An appalling fact about the seizure as reported by patients is “like someone has stolen a second from your life.”  

Epilepsy and Cognition

A widely prevalent mode of treatment for preventing the seizure is anti-epileptics. Anti-epileptic drugs can have the positive and negative effect on cognition.  However, most anti-epileptic medications can slow down processing of information in some children, while other anti-epileptic medications can induce fatigue that decreases the child’s ability to acquire new concepts, register and/or retain the information for a long time.  

Epilepsy and Memory

Most adults complain about mental slowness, memory difficulties and attention deficits. Seizures that start in the temporal lobe, causes major damage to the hippocampus. If the seizures go untreated, then the hippocampus continues to get damaged and it gets harder. This leads to information getting stored in a disorganized way. A Child with seizures may study a particular topic multiple times, but they may not recall it the next day. Research has shown that people with epilepsy are prone to forget things, however, the information can be retained and recalled through revision and relearning of the forgotten concepts after recovery from seizure.  

Epilepsy and Learning Curve

School may be difficult for the child if the child has learning problems along with epilepsy. Some specific learning problems that children with epilepsy can experience are: (1) academic problems – difficulties with reading, writing, and math (2) language problems – difficulties with comprehension, speech, and communication attention (3) concentration problems – a child may be inattentive, hyperactive, or both. He/She may only be able to concentrate for short periods of time (4) slowness: it may take a child longer to process new information or to complete tasks compared to other children. Children with epilepsy may have various disruptions due to seizures, sleep and medications. These disruptions in an ability to learn can change from time to time, hour to hour or even from day to day. Multiple seizures or even a single experience of seizure can cause the child to forget what he/she has just learned. The child may have difficulty remembering information straight after the seizure. This confusion of not remembering things usually goes once the child has recovered from the episode.  The length of the time it takes for the memory to return to normal can vary from person to person.   Seizures which occur during sleep can affect sleep pattern of the child which leaves the child feeling very tired and confused for the next day. It can lead to an increase in fatigue or decreases attention and which makes it difficult for learning. Epilepsy can affect attention and also the speed of processing information. Children with seizures are able to process the required information presented to them, but they would not process it at the same speed in which the information is presented. In brief, a child may have difficulty in absorbing information.  As mentioned above, Epilepsy has a significant effect on retrieval from the memory.     To help the child

Early intervention is important. Children who have seizures generally require a highly structured environment. The best way to teach the children with such difficulties is using one to one instruction, in a step by step manner and the direct approach method. In some cases, special education may be required. Creating a supportive environment in school with the teachers and classmates will make it easier for the child to enhance his potentials. Helping the child by finding the skills or area of his/her interest with focusing on the child’s strengths can help the child cope and fight in a positive manner.  

As a parent/caregiver, you may not be able to predict how epilepsy will affect your child’s life. However, helping your child to manage their seizures and being open about their feelings can make a positive difference. It’s important to take a timeout on bad/ difficult days, but it is equally important to gradually enable the child to get a hand of his routine at the earliest.