The Centers for Disease Control defines epilepsy as follows:

  • Epilepsy is a common disorder of the brain that causes recurring seizures. It is sometimes called a seizure disorder.
  • A seizure is a short change in normal brain activity. Seizures are the main sign of epilepsy. A person is diagnosed with epilepsy when they have had two or more seizures.
  • There are many types of seizures. Some seizures can look like staring spells. Other seizures cause a person to fall, shake, and lose awareness of what’s going on around them.
  • A seizure can last from a few seconds to a few minutes.
  • Epilepsy is more common in children and older adults but can affect people of all ages.

Some people can have a seizure and yet not have epilepsy. For example, many young children have convulsions from fevers. Other types of seizures not classified as epilepsy include those caused by an imbalance of body fluids or chemicals or by alcohol or drug withdrawal. Thus, a single seizure does not mean that the person has epilepsy. Generally speaking, the diagnosis of epilepsy is made when a person has two or more unprovoked seizures.

Epilepsy can affect a child’s ability to access education so parents may want to request an evaluation for an IEP or Section 504 plan. Students with epilepsy may qualify for special education services under the Other Health Impairment (OHI) category as noted on page 45 of  the USBE Special Education Rules.

The accommodations that a child with epilepsy receives are determined by his or her IEP team which includes the parents. Here are a few possible accommodations to consider:

To address memory deficits

  • Provide written or pictorial instructions
  • Use voice recordings of verbal instructions
  • Have a peer buddy take notes for the student or permit tape recording
  • Divide large tasks into smaller steps
  • Provide a checklist of assignments and a calendar with due dates
  • Decrease memory demands during classwork and testing (e.g., use recognition rather than recall tasks)

To address health concerns

  • Be flexible about time missed from school to seek treatment or adjust to new medications
  • Provide extra time for assignments and a modified workload (fatigue is a common side effect of seizures and medications)
  • Replace fluorescent lighting with full spectrum lighting
  • Provide private area to rest or recover from a seizure

(adapted from the Center for Parent Information & Resources  

It’s very helpful to read more about epilepsy. The following are links to additional information:

Epilepsy Association of Utah

The Epilepsy Association of Utah is dedicated to providing education and support services for individuals and families dealing with the many challenges of Epilepsy. is an online resource provided by The Epilepsy Project. Their mission is to inform and empower two groups of patients and their families: those facing newly diagnosed epilepsy, and those struggling with epilepsy that has resisted treatment.

Epilepsy Information Page

The National institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides information on research, clinical trials, treatment and causes of epilepsy.  


This webpage from the Center for Parent Information and Resource describes symptoms and causes of epilepsy. Also included are accommodation that can be used in school, treatment, diagnosis and more resources.  

Talk About It

This site is dedicated to ending the stigma associated with epilepsy through “talking about it.” It includes a lot of information including videos about living with epilepsy.

Employees with Epilepsy

The Job Accommodations network provides information to help employers and employees about reasonable job accommodations as allowed under the ADA. Many of the suggestions can be adapted to other areas besides employment.