Seizure Action Plans And Special Education

Preparedness and Peace of Mind for Your Child’s Education

By Max Goldman, Esq.

Federal and state laws guarantee a child with a disability the right to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) that includes an individualized education plan (IEP) tailored to the child’s unique needs and “reasonably calculated to enable the child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances” (Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, 580 U.S. at ∗14-15 (Mar. 22, 2017, No. 15-827). Children who suffer from seizures require an individualized approach to address these unique needs, including the ability to safely attend school and complete their education. This article explores the creation and implementation of seizure action plans, an important tool for navigating the threat of seizures in an educational setting.

What is a seizure action plan?

A seizure action plan is a document that provides important information about your child’s seizure-related needs to educators and school staff. It should be developed collaboratively between parents, pediatricians, and neurologists in order to provide a variety of detailed information regarding your child’s needs, including:

  • Contact information
  • Treating physician
  • Significant medical history
  • Seizure information (length, type, frequency, description)
  • Seizure triggers or “warning signs”
  • Your child’s reaction to the seizures
  • A description of basic first-aid procedures
  • A description of emergency responses, including what constitutes a “seizure emergency” for your child
  • Treatment protocols, including details for daily and emergency medications, as well as side-effects
  • Special considerations and other safety precautions

This plan should be signed by both the child’s parents and physician. It is a document that relies on accuracy, detail, and clarity that should be revisited regularly and revised accordingly, as your child’s seizure-related needs change.

How to prepare a seizure action plan?

First, talk to your child’s physician. He or she may have a form for you to fill out and can go over the information with you, step by step, to ensure every detail is filled out clearly and correctly. Once it is complete and you have reviewed it, you will both sign it and make multiple copies. Your child’s doctor may also provide advice on how to communicate the plan to school administrators and staff or help you reach out to neurologists who can provide additional guidance. If your child has an IEP, you can also discuss the plan with the IEP team to determine who should have a copy of the plan and how to inform them of the plan’s procedures.

How do I explain the plan to my child?

Seizures can be a lifelong medical condition and the earlier you can openly discuss it with your child, the more prepared he or she will be to manage it as an adult. The seizure action plan is extremely important to this, as your child may need to develop and update it on his or her own as he or she grows older. Once you have prepared the plan, sit down with your child and his or her physician to go over the details of the plan. It is important that your child understands the seizure triggers, how to inform an adult of the plan, and who at his or her school has a copy of the plan. Your child should never feel afraid to discuss the issues and speak out for his or her safety.

Who should have a copy of my child’s seizure action plan?

Proper distribution is just as important as accuracy, detail, and clarity for your child’s seizure action plan. Without proper distribution, even a well-tailored and otherwise-effective plan will not be helpful in addressing your child’s needs.

So, who at school should have a copy of your child’s seizure action plan? Every educator or staff member who interacts with your child, especially those who have the most frequent interaction. This includes:

  • Classroom teachers
  • School nurses
  • Administrators and front office staff
  • Teacher’s aides
  • Coaches
  • Librarians
  • Bus drivers
  • Substitute teachers, or a staff member who can inform them of the plan
  • Student club managers or supervising teachers
  • Private tutors
  • Teachers and coaches for non-academic programs, such as piano lessons or gymnastics

In short, there is no guarantee who will be present when the plan requires implementation, and all parties will benefit from this information. Parents and physicians should also keep a copy and include it in the child’s school records and medical files.

How do I implement the plan?

A seizure action plan can be implemented into your child’s educational program in a variety of ways. If the seizure action plan is implemented into your child’s IEP, verify that the school district is aware of your child’s seizure-related needs prior to the IEP meeting. In addition, verify that a school nurse will be present at the IEP meeting to discuss your child’s health needs and the proper implementation of the plan. The law requires that appropriate school medical personnel be included at IEP meetings under these circumstances, as they provide knowledge and special expertise to the rest of the IEP team.

Remember: your school district has an affirmative duty to make sure such personnel are present and they can only be excused from such meetings with your prior written consent. Nevertheless, it is not uncommon for school districts to fail to ensure that necessary members of the IEP team are present, thus requiring effective advocacy to secure a proper forum to discuss your child’s unique needs. A seizure action plan may also be implemented as part of a 504 plan, or independently.

Updating and reviewing a plan

As your child grows up, you may need to regularly update his or her seizure action plan based on the advice of his or her doctor. Medication, seizure triggers, and procedures may change, and the seizure plan should include any changes to dosages or treatments. In addition, as your child changes schools, new staff members, administrators, and school districts will need to be aware of the plan, as well as any changes that are made throughout your child’s education. Some of these changes can be discussed and reviewed with your IEP team to ensure all relevant parties are aware of the updated plan, but you can also discuss it with administrators and teachers individually during enrollment. If your child goes on field trips or travels for extracurricular activities, such as sports teams or academic programs, you should also inform all staff members and chaperones of the plan.

Conclusion

Just as it “takes a village to raise a child,” similar collaboration is required for the creation and implementation of an effective seizure action plan. An effective plan requires communication with medical professionals such as a pediatrician and neurologist to ascertain your child’s unique needs and how they should specifically be addressed in the plan. In addition, communication and coordination with your district and school are crucial to ensure that all relevant parties have a copy of the plan, enabling them to understand the needs of your child and what action is required of them.

When created and implemented effectively, a seizure action plan provides preparedness and peace of mind to you and your child. A seizure action plan allows your child to attend school with the knowledge that those entrusted with his or her safety are informed and are capable of responding appropriately in the event of a seizure emergency. The same assurance also benefits parents, teachers, nurses, and administrators, making seizure action plans a cost-effective, highly valuable tool in ensuring your child’s safety.

If you are facing difficulties communicating the seriousness of your child’s seizure action plan with school administrators and staff or need assistance with resolving a conflict with an IEP team, do not hesitate to contact Woodsmall Law Group. Our Los Angeles special needs attorneys have years of experience advocating for the rights of parents and children throughout Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley. We can provide compassionate mediation while also aggressively advocating on your child’s safety and fair treatment. Call us today at (626) 440-0028 to schedule a free consultation.