As Executive Director of the BC Epilepsy Society, I’ve been able to successfully apply for funding three times through Variety – The Children’s Charity, once in 2004, once in 2006, and once again in 2008.
Imagine having your teacher belittle you in front of your classmates because he doesn’t recognize your absence seizures as epilepsy and thinks you’re just day dreaming.
Imagine not being invited to your classmate’s party because she thinks your seizures are scary.
Imagine having a seizure on the school bus and the driver tells you to get off the bus because he thinks you’re just misbehaving.
Each of the grants supported the expansion of our Partners in Teaching program, first into elementary schools, then high schools and most recently in pre-elementary settings like nursery schools and day care centres.
The program, led by trained facilitators, helps adult leaders better understand the facts and myths of epilepsy and most importantly, the proper seizure first aid required for any of the children under their charge.
This program is so important because it responds to the now-accepted recognition that, with children especially, it is the emotional, social and psychological stresses or epilepsy - not the challenges of seizure control - that leave the deepest scars. Most children living with epilepsy want their seizures to disappear and the teasing from peers to stop. The BC Epilepsy Society serves the more than 13,000 young people with epilepsy in BC and they want a safe and supportive environment at school.
The reason for the focus on teacher/adult leader training is that many children who have epilepsy experience 'absence seizures' (formerly called petit mal), which don't present with convulsions that a teacher could easily recognize. Absence seizures are mistaken for daydreaming and inattentiveness or attention deficit disorder. Not only does a child lose out on teaching content, they are either belittled by staff or incorrectly recommended for special needs placement.
Training can also be made available to groups who are involved in the day-to-day lives of children with epilepsy, such as day cares, camp staff, police departments, bus drivers and nurses.
We are able to leave resources both with the individual workshop participants as well as more comprehensive kits with each of the school district libraries. This would not be possible without the financial support of Variety.
After each workshop, our facilitators have participants complete a brief questionnaire and annually our satisfaction rating is in excess of 98%.
Even with this high success rate, we constantly strive to improve our resources and presentation notes. Having said that, we are about to complete our new training video that will accompany workshop presentations.
We look forward to being able to further expand the Partners in Teaching program and other programs valuable to children living with epilepsy in collaboration with Variety. Our volunteers, staff and the families we serve appreciate the support of Variety - The Children's Charity.
Shawn Laari, Executive Director BC Epilepsy Society
Variety - The Children's Charity 4300 Still Creek Drive Burnaby, British Columbia Canada V5C 6C6 Phone: 604.320.0505 | Fax: 604.320.0535 | Toll-free in BC & Alberta: 310.KIDS (5437) | E-mail: email@example.com