Children with Epilepsy Bullied More Often, Study Says

(Photo: MN Epilepsy Group)

(Photo: MN Epilepsy Group)

A new study conducted by Australian researchers concluded that children and young adults with epilepsy face a wide range of psychological, physical, and social challenges. The researchers looked into 43 previous studies that included more than 950 respondents, among which children, teenagers, and young adults and their experiences with the seizure disorder. According to study author Deepak Gill, a pediatric neurologist at the Children's Comprehensive Epilepsy Service at the Hospital of Westmead, New South Wales, a child suffering from seizure disorders feels much more vulnerable from a physical and a social point of view.

The loss of bodily control during a seizure and the possibility of a subsequent injury are among the main concerns of the people with epilepsy, added Gill.

The respondents also said they were concerned about the possibility of dying, embarrassment over their inability to perform well in school, and more. As Dr. Amber Robins and Gillian Mohney of ABC News noted, some children admitted that having seizures disturbed their self-confidence, making them feel more likely to be injured. Other kids mentioned they had fears of turning into a "vegetable."

Many of the children with epilepsy experienced difficulties in school, as sometimes it can be hard for them to memorize facts and data, as well as having attention issues. Furthermore, their classmates often tease them or ask questions about the medications they have to take. According to the study, trying to interact with fellow students can pose a problem.

Moreover, medical staff in schools are not always fully familiar with epilepsy, which leads to further difficulties for the children.

Children with epilepsy and other specific medical conditions reported of being bullied at school, wrote Elaine Wyllie, M.D., in US News. According to Wyllie, if you know a child or a teenager who is a victim or bullying or at risk of it, you can help by communicating with him. Many experts in pediatric health, Wyllie included, recommend that adults talk openly about the issue with the child. According to the professionals, the best thing one can do to help is to build trust by encouraging communication and asking directly about bullying, mood, and suicidal thoughts.

Adults may continue working on the issue by talking to teachers and school administrators to stop bullying immediately. Schools are even using innovative computer-based bullying prevention tools such as StandUp, an online program consisting of three sessions to teach students how to interact with one another in a non-violent manner. The effect of such tools has not been investigated in detail, but the initial research showed significant improvement in the school environment.

The findings of the Australian research team received mixed feedback from US colleagues. Dr. Ian Miller, a pediatric neurologist and head of the epilepsy program at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami, agreed with the research results. But he also pointed out that one of the most neglected aspects of pediatric epilepsy in the United States was the financial difficulties parents have in getting insurance coverage for these conditions, noted Kathleen Doheny of UPI.

On the other hand, Dr. Ronald Jacobson, chief of pediatric neurology at Boston Children's Hospital, said the findings were not relevant to most children with epilepsy. According to Jacobson, patients with epilepsy in the United States are subject to strict control with medications, and many children outgrow the disease. He also added that the range of issues experienced by kids with seizure disorders varied, but the goal always was to minimize them.

08 13, 2016
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