Group lobbies for teachers to learn to recognize epilepsy

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Advocates for children with epilepsy are pushing to train Michigan school workers to recognize seizures and provide necessary first aid.

The legislation would require the education of all school districts in the state to help Michigan’s 13,600 children with epilepsy and their families.

Elizabeth Stout, a student at Albion College and a youth consultant with Michigan Children’s Special Health Services, said the bill was a big step.

“Every patient is different when it comes to their epilepsy and how you treat it,” said Stout, who has had epilepsy for 12 years. “It’s hard when people assume things about a health problem, and it would be a lot easier if there was more education”


The legislation, sponsored by Representative Jack O’Malley, R-Lake Ann, would make seizure action plans for students with epilepsy accessible to employees in contact with them. Using information from parents, plans are specific to the needs of each student, including information on medication or first aid.

The legislation would also mean that every school would need a full-time employee trained to administer emergency rescue medication in life-threatening situations. Eleven other states have already passed a law on the secure seizure of schools.

“Most of the people we meet, certainly on the legislative side, are surprised to know that this training is not already in the repertoire of teachers,” said Brianna Romines, president of the Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan.

The bill would require all school employees to be trained in first aid and crisis recognition. This one-hour training would be offered free online, with in-person options as well.

The training is also offered by the National Epilepsy Foundation, which allows for broader access than what the state chapter can provide, said Russ Derry, director of education for the Michigan Epilepsy Foundation.

Romines said epilepsy training is as important as other safety training teachers receive. A school counselor, who has been trained in the use of fire extinguishers each year, said she had never had to use one in over 15 years. But the counselor responded to around five to 15 seizures each year.

Lack of education is a problem because it stigmatizes epilepsy, said Sierra Cameron, CEO of the Michigan chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“If a child has a seizure, it might not be as clinically serious as people think,” Cameron said. “If you’re unfamiliar with seizures, it could really intimidate you. “

One of the consequences is that school workers call 911 and children diagnosed with epilepsy are taken from the classroom to the emergency room, Romines said. This results in trauma for children and unnecessary costs for families of hospitals, ambulance trips and lost wages for those leaving their jobs.

“So there are economic and emotional impacts to that,” Romines said. “But all of this could have been simply resolved with training. “

Another challenge is that school workers may be uncomfortable administering invasive rescue medication, Derry said. As nasal medication options become more available, the main reliever treatment for young people with seizures is given rectally.

Derry sympathizes with these employees, but said training on rescue medication is just as important as learning how to use epipens for students with severe allergies. While a school nurse would ideally administer the drugs, all employees authorized to administer the drugs would receive training.

Derry said everyone should understand the needs of students with epilepsy because seizures can happen at any time.

“In Michigan, we have one of the worst ratios of school nurses to students in the country,” Derry said. “We have about 4,200 students per school nurse. “

Stout said it’s also important to remember that epilepsy isn’t just seizures with uncontrollable movements. Epilepsy can cause episodes of staring that lead students to be disciplined to not pay attention or to assume they have attention deficit disorder, Romines said. Many of the effects of epilepsy and its medications are difficult to distinguish.

“This is why we are hoping for this training,” Romines said. “Not only does it teach you first aid in a crisis, but it also teaches crisis recognition. “

The foundation says it hopes the House will hold hearings on the seizure security bill in October.

Stout has repeatedly said that explaining that your condition was exhausting. While she was fortunate to have teachers open to this conversation, this is not always the case.

“If teachers and others in the education system understand epilepsy, then it’s easier for students to be honest about it and share it,” Stout said. Michigan Call and Connect Network Founded.


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