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Epilepsy Behav. 2005 Jun;6(4):601-3.

Kids' perception about epilepsy.

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Department of Neurology, State University of Campinas (UNICAMP), Campinas/SP, Brazil.



Epilepsy remains a stigmatized condition. Lack of information has been pointed to as a cause of the perpetuation of stigma. Our goal was to survey children's perception of epilepsy.


We used a questionnaire to determine if the children knew what epilepsy is and, if they did not know, what did they think epilepsy is. Twenty-nine children (15 girls; mean age 10 years, range 9-11 years) from a fourth-grade class of an elementary school in Campinas, Sao Paulo, Brazil, completed the questionnaires individually at the same time in the classroom. This took about 20 minutes.


Only four children said they knew what epilepsy is: a disease of swallowing the tongue (3) and a disease that can kill (1). The perceptions of children who said they did not know what epilepsy is were: a disease that can kill, a disease of swallowing the tongue, a contagious disease, a serious illness, a head injury. Three children knew someone with epilepsy, and only two of them had said they knew what epilepsy is.


The perceptions elicited from the children had a negative connotation; only one child mentioned a relationship between epilepsy and the brain. The spontaneous thoughts of children in this age group, without the contamination of political correctness, may reflect society's collective unconsciousness of the prejudice toward epilepsy and people with epilepsy and needs to be further investigated. Continuous, repetitive educational efforts are necessary in elementary school to change these negative perceptions of epilepsy in our society.

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