Happy Epilepsy Awareness Month from the Accessibility Advisory Committee!

Happy Epilepsy Awareness Month from the Accessibility Advisory Committee!

November is a big month for celebrations in the United States, and one of these is National Epilepsy Awareness Month, or NEAM. Epilepsy is a non-apparent disability, but it is extremely common. In fact, it is estimated that around 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, according to the World Health Organization, including 75,000 people living in Washington State, according to the Epilepsy Foundation Washington Chapter

What does Epilepsy look like?

Seizures are categorized into two groups, and are described well CDC’s website about seizure types. These classifications are Generalized seizures and Focal seizures. It is important to remember that people with epilepsy may have several different types of seizures, and that all people respond differently.

Tonic-clonic seizures, the type most commonly shown on television or in the movies, typically includes individuals to fall, shake, and lose consciousness briefly. Many individuals who have epilepsy also have absence seizures, which are quick like a blink or a short stare and are often missed. As these are Generalized seizures, both tonic-clonic and absence seizures affect both sides of the brain.

Simple focal seizures affect a small part of the brain. These seizures can cause twitching or a change in sensation, such as a strange taste or smell. Complex focal seizures can make a person with epilepsy confused or dazed. The person likely will be unable to respond for several minutes. Secondary generalized seizures begin in one part of the brain, but then spread to both sides of the brain. In other words, the person first has a focal seizure, followed by a generalized seizure.

Non-Epileptic Seizures (NES), do present like epileptic seizures. However, they are not caused by the same neurological disorders and an electroencephalogram (EEG) would not show spikes as with epileptic seizures. Typically, NES are symptoms of mental health disorders.

What should I do if I see someone having a seizure?

Typically, a person who has a diagnosis of a seizure disorder has a seizure plan. Such as how long their seizures last or how their seizures present. For example: do they stop breathing, how long are they unconscious, are they lucid when they wake up, etc. If you don’t have this information, you should consider the seizure an emergency, because you don’t know why it is happening. Call 9-1-1, and when you are on campus, also call Safety & Security at 206-235-5860. The safest thing to do is move things around them so if the individual falls, or if they are moving on the ground, they will avoid hitting their head. It is okay to catch them and gently place them on the ground. Never put anything in the mouth of a person having a seizure.

Recognize Individuality, as always

Keep in mind that, as with all disabilities, all of those with seizure disorders present differently. They may easily stop having seizures with medication, or as they reach adulthood, or not. They might stop breathing when they are seizing for a few seconds, or not. Some people who have major seizures may be able to jump up immediately afterwards and continue to work as typical, or it may take a day or two to recover.


How are we doing?

Please submit feedback about the information that the Accessibility Advisory Committee shares to Miranda Levy via email at mlevy@shoreline.edu so that the committee can review together and serve the campus community better.

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