A perfectly warm day in mid June was clouded with poor memories. Memories of waking up, on the grass, to blurry outlines of the principal and nurse hovering above me, the sound of blaring sirens, and an unsteady ambulance ride to Bridgeport Hospital. They ran scans and tests, men with white coats and badges came and went, recommendations of neurologists flew in the air as I sat on the hospital bed, barely noticed like a forgotten piece of furniture. Proceeding this, there were alien stares from well known peers, and then, after a summer of more scans, medication, and visits, everyone forgot about the girl who ruined field day.
Unfortunately, this scarring sequence happens to 1 in every 100 students worldwide, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Most cases of epilepsy are in children and yet schools – a space for security and growth – are doing nothing to influence the youth mind to prioritize inclusion. While skeptics may say the issue is temporary, as children are only in grade school for a short time, understanding and respecting differences is a lifelong skill.
Additionally, the results of a CDC study shows that students 6-17 years old were likely to miss more than 11 days of school in the past year. Less time in school results in decreased social skills and understanding of topics being covered in the classroom. The CDC made a public statement saying, “… students with epilepsy were more likely to have difficulties in school, use special education services, and have activity limitations such as less participation in sports or clubs compared with students with other medical conditions.” Epileptic adolescents are often ignorant of the magnitude of students that epilepsy impacts. Stares from peers at the fragile ages of adolescence only increase feelings of seclusion.
To reverse this trend, schools should focus on inclusion.
According to Education Week, “Inclusion is the least expensive, most effective method of teaching students. When administrators model inclusivity and support teachers in its implementation, the entire school culture changes.” Therefore, The American Public Health Association and American School Health Association must include epilepsy in the National Health Education Standards curriculum. This integration will not only benefit the individual.
As society progresses students need to be taught useful standards that apply outside of the traditional classroom. Without vital changes, implicit bias will continue to control our society by mercilessly stereotyping disabled youth.
Changing Perspectives, an established nonprofit organization advocating for equality and inclusion, states, “To create a more inclusive world tomorrow students need opportunities to gain an awareness of disabilities today.”