Epilepsy counselor to visit area schools
Counselor will train teachers in how to recognize symptoms of the disease in school age children
Kelly Aprill, a counselor for the Epilepsy Foundation of Louisiana, will be visiting elementary school classrooms in St. Charles Parish this January to educate teachers in the area about recognizing the signs of the illness.
"There are at least 20 different types of epileptic seizures," Aprill said. "Some children who have the illness simply stare into space - it's so quick the parent or the teacher may not even notice."
Aprill says school children who suffer from the illness may appear to be distracted and may not appear to be paying attention in class.
"A lot of times teachers will say the student is daydreaming, or gazing off into the distance, and it usually becomes more noticeable once a child is school age," she said. "That's when they are forced to pay attention and simply can't because they may be experiencing a form of epileptic seizure."
The counselor said that the elderly in the community are being diagnosed with epilepsy at an alarming rate while support services for them are lacking.
"Adults 65 and over are being diagnosed with epilepsy far more frequently than children now a days," she said. "About 30 percent of the elderly were diagnosed after a head trauma, or some type of head injury, but in 70 percent of the patients the reason they developed the illness is unclear."
The epilepsy specialist says that since Hurricane Katrina devastated the health care system, many patients aren't getting treated by a neurological specialist as they should be.
"In some cases, a doctor who practices medicine in general is sufficient and they can help the patient manage their seizures," she said. "However, some patients require a neurologist, and with the crash of the health care system in New Orleans, a lot of patients are having difficulty finding a doctor in this field to help them manage and control their symptoms."
Only a physician can determine whether or not an adult or child has epilepsy, but there are some signs and symptoms parents and teachers can watch for.
"Sudden episodes of blank staring in children and brief periods when there's no response to questions or instructions," she said. "These things really stand out once a child gets into the classroom."
The other symptoms include: periods of blackout or confused memory, sudden falls for no apparent reason, a convulsion without a fever, clusters of swift jerking movements, occasional "fainting spells" in which bladder or bowel control is lost, followed by extreme fatigue.
Aprill will be making four presentations about epilepsy beginning Jan. 9 at Luling Elementary.
For more information about the Epilepsy Foundation, 1-800-960-0587.
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