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Child Care Health Dev. 2011 Jan;37(1):96-102. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2214.2010.01127.x.

The prevalence and management of epilepsy in secondary school pupils with and without special educational needs.

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  • 1Paediatric Department, Countess of Chester Hospital, Chester, UK.



The objectives of this paper were to (i) determine the prevalence of epilepsy (including the various epilepsies and epilepsy syndromes) in a secondary school population; and (ii) compare the management of epilepsy between secondary school pupils with and without special educational needs.


Retrospective observational study of a 250, 000 population (West Cheshire Health District). Pupils attending secondary school with epilepsy over a 1-year period were identified from the local Child Health Computer, school nurse and DGH records. Health records were examined to determine the prevalence, characteristics and management of the epilepsy, and the presence of any special educational needs, other learning difficulties or physical disability.


The prevalence of epilepsy was 4.1 per 1000, being 10 times higher among adolescents who had special educational needs. Pupils with epilepsy and special educational needs had more poorly controlled epilepsy, but did not have a higher number of focal seizures nor were they taking a greater number of anti-epileptic drugs. A physical disability occurred five times more often in those with special educational needs and epilepsy. While epilepsy in pupils at mainstream school without special educational needs was better controlled, one-fifth of these subjects had poorly controlled epilepsy and a few also had physical disabilities.


Epilepsy is more challenging to control in adolescents with special educational needs attending special schools. However, some pupils in mainstream secondary schools had poorly controlled epilepsy even when they did not have recognized special educational needs. Health and education professionals working across the range of secondary school environments need to be able to support pupils with challenging epilepsy, many of whom will also have special educational needs and some a physical disability, as an increasing number of adolescents with these difficulties are being placed in mainstream schools.

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