School principal tells boy (10) with epilepsy: 'Wear a helmet or stay indoors'
A young boy with epilepsy was asked to wear a helmet in the schoolyard. A teenage girl with the seizure disorder was asked to sit State exams in a separate room.
Shocking cases of discrimination against pupils with epilepsy were uncovered during the first phase of a new study carried out by Dublin City University's school of Nursing and Human Science.
The study - titled Talking About Epilepsy - was carried out in interviews with 40 parents and 33 children, aged six to 16 years.
The findings emerge ahead of the first ever International Epilepsy Day tomorrow. Families who took part in the study reported that some teachers and principals had no interest in educating themselves about the disorder.
The parent of one 10-year-old boy revealed how a principal told her that her son would have to wear a helmet in the playground, or else he would have to be kept indoors.
While a 15-year-old girl was excluded from PE against her mother's wishes and her doctor's recommendation.
"It was terrible, the principal wouldn't let her take part in PE and would leave her in the class doing her work," her mother said. "She wouldn't even let Ruth sit on the bench, or even in the PE hall. She wouldn't let her outside in case she would fall and hit her head off a wall."
The study also found many children with epilepsy had learning issues due to medication-associated fatigue and difficulties with concentration, as well as poor attendance.
Some parents of epileptic children said the threat of minor injuries is preferable to the child feeling stigmatised or "different".
However, the study - led by Dr Veronica Lambert, of the Nursing and Human Science Department - found that parents and children had positive experiences in many schools too, with teachers showing support and enthusiasm to learn more about it.
The Department of Education confirmed that "discrimination in relation to a student with a particular medical condition, including epilepsy, is banned under the Equal Status Acts".
A spokesperson added: "Schools should plan for the inclusion and education of all children with special needs and vulnerable conditions in consultation with parents and if required, may seek assistance from the National Council for Special Education, National Education Psychological Service and Special Education Support Service."