You are stronger than you think
Young Epilepsy have created a campaign and survey, to provide the right support for young people at school with epilepsy. I know through personal experiences how vital it is to have that support system in place. As it affects you education greatly if the school are unable to provide a successful guidance. Today I am going to be talking about my experience of having epilepsy and the support I did and didn't receive throughout my education. I want to make it very clear I am splitting this into two sections of the different schools I went to. My first from the age of eleven to sixteen. And a different sixth form, the age of sixteen to eighteen. As they had a huge contrast in support. Secondly I would like to make clear I do not blame any of the teachers, or support people that I had throughout my education. I strongly believe they where not informed in enough detail about my condition and what it involves. Therefore this is why I am so passionate about this campaign to make sure children with epilepsy don't have to go through the struggle I went through.
Education eleven to sixteen -
My first year of secondary school was by far the hardest, I had gone from a small primary school to a school of 1,500. Therefore for any child this is a huge leap and daunting. Unfortunately during this I was also in and out of hospital due to having seizures and tests. As at this point I had not yet been diagnosed with epilepsy. Due to all of this I became a very angry, confused and a scared child. Which is why it was vital I had the support and care at school to help me. Sadly this was poorly arranged. At the end of my first year at secondary school I was diagnosed with absence epilepsy.
Continuing to miss a lot of school due to seizures, medication side affects and anxiety. Throughout this whole process the teachers seemed overwhelmed and confused about what was happening and why it was causing me to miss so much school. Both myself and my parents felt helpless in the situation. It also caused me to loose a lot of friends, therefore I didn't have the ‘normal’ social situation of a twelve year old. Go forward a couple of years and I was studying my first year of GCSEs I had become so poorly with having uncontrolled seizures, and anxiety. This combination caused me to fear school, as I felt unsafe in the environment. Therefore in year 10 (age fourteen-fifteen) my parents and I decided it would be best to be home school educated. For me this was devastating as naturally my personality is a sociable, extroverted and outgoing character. All i wanted was to be like all of my friends and have a normal school experience. Being home school was challenging however it allowed me to build my confidence back up and i started another medication which successfully controlled my seizures. Therefore I was able to go back into school part time for my final year of GCSES, i was still scared and nervous but it was a huge break through to have my seizures controlled and it allowed me to concentrate on my education.
I strongly believe that if i had a greater support system at my first school I would of thrived better in my subjects and left with more GCSEs. However this is not the point, what i want to make clear is the teachers needed to be educated and have an understanding on what to do when a child had epilepsy and how to support them. It was the hardest period of my life and I think a vital part of any child's life which is why we need to make sure a successful support system is put into place.
Education sixteen to eighteen -
For sixth form (age sixteen to eighteen) I wanted a fresh start. My seizures where currently being successfully controlled. However my parents and i knew we still needed to find a sixth form where they had a strong support system. Fortunately we found one. And i can not express how much this helped me and got me to where i am today. It was like a break through after six years of having what we felt was little to no support at school we finally found a school that was willing and understanding about my condition. Therefore this caused me to thrive in sixth form. I created an amazing group of friends and was finally living like a normal teenager. This was all down to the teachers being supportive and understanding. They would do everything they could to help me, when i missed school due to medication side affects or fatigue. They would always accommodate ways around it. Due to this fantastic support i was provided with it allowed me to get into universities to study my dream course which I never imagined I could ever do. It also allowed my confidence to increase hugely and go back to the outgoing, happy person I once was.
I guess what I am trying to say is throughout my secondary education I experienced both ends of the spectrum in regards to support. And i think it proves that with support and understanding a child with epilepsy can thrive and do equally as well. But if the support is not in place it is a much greater struggle. This why it is so important we make sure the education system have a successful support system to be provided towards children with epilepsy.
Young Epilepsy have set up a survey to ask about your experience of support to make sure children with epilepsy get the support then need. The link follows - https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/EveryoneKnowsSomeone
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