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A Letter to the Minister of Education

August 24, 2020

Dear Minister Lecce,

As the Ministry and Boards of Education, educators, parents, and students, all prepare for the return to school in the coming weeks, it is important that all stakeholders consider the implications and impacts of COVID-19 plans on students covered under PPM 161. With that in mind, Epilepsy Ontario and the
province’s Community Epilepsy Agencies want to advise you of certain concerns that have been raised regarding how to ensure students with seizures receive proper support, with the expectation that the Ministry will proactively work with Boards of Education to address these concerns.

Schools and Boards must work with parents and students to ensure that effective seizure response and accommodation plans are in place for students with epilepsy, whether attending class in-person or using remote learning options. This plan should include considerations such as:

• Ensuring staff have a basic knowledge of epilepsy and how to support any students in their school living with seizures, by connecting with local Community Epilepsy Agencies or using Epilepsy Ontario’s online educator training course.

• Discussing with parents and students the level of disclosure they are comfortable with in the classroom, either in-person or remote, such as informing classmates about a student’s seizures, with the goal of de-stigmatizing epilepsy and creating ‘buddy’ supports for issues such as washroom trips, or lessons missed due to seizures.

• Working with parents to understand and address individual seizure triggers or psychosocial needs a student might have (such as exhaustion, flashing lights, anxiety about COVID-19, stress about mask wearing) and recognizing that triggers vary from person-to-person with epilepsy.

• How to respond if a student has a seizure during class. This can include consideration for in-person settings, such as recognizing when a seizure is, or is not, a medical emergency that requires teachers or other staff to administer rescue medication after donning sufficient PPE. During remote learning, this response plan can include when and who to contact in the home if a
student has a seizure while on a video call.

• Anticipating how changes to routines and environments due to COVID-19 can impact student learning, such as extended screen time potentially acting as a seizure trigger in some students, or ensuring students in small class placements have the full support they need, given new space needs in schools.

The key to successfully addressing these concerns is for school staff to work with students and families to develop an individualized plan to respond to seizures and support students in the classroom. We believe that the Ministry and Boards of Education must take this necessary step, committing to work
with parents and students affected by epilepsy, and, in doing so, ensure students receive the reasonable support and accommodations which the deserve.

Please feel free to contact us should you require any further information.

Drew Woodley
Director, Government Relations
Epilepsy Ontario