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Friday, 7 July, 2000, 12:37 GMT 13:37 UK
Epilepsy linked to learning problems
boy looking at blackboard
Affected pupils can find it hard to follow lessons
Pupils with learning and behavioural difficulties may be suffering from undiagnosed epilepsy, research suggests.

During epileptic episodes, they have spells when they are mentally "absent", according to child psychiatry expert Dr Andrew Parkin.

By the time they become conscious of their surroundings again, the lesson has moved on, and they become confused.

But instead of realising there is an underlying problem, teachers may think the children are simply daydreaming. They may not even notice at all.

Presenting his research to the annual meeting of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Edinburgh, Dr Parkin, of Leicester University, said that epilepsy in itself did not necessarily predispose a child to poor social achievement.

But if they also found it difficult to understand things, there were "social consequences."

'Catastrophic rage'

According to Dr Parkin, boys are more likely than girls to suffer from behavioural difficulties caused by undiagnosed epilepsy.

He said patterns of behaviour could be detected in affected pupils, with several weeks where things appeared to be going well followed by several weeks where things went badly in an "on/off" pattern.

Episodes could start and stop abruptly, and sometimes the problems were demonstrated in brief, sharp bursts of "catastrophic rage".

"Anxiety and depression and low self-esteem are very common. The child knows they are not performing as well as they should," said Dr Parkin.

"They can see their peers getting ahead of them. There is a knock-on effect at home and at school."

Dr Parkin said it was very important that children suffering from these problems were referred to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

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See also:

25 Nov 99 | Health
Epilepsy CD-ROM for schools
28 Jun 99 | Health
Public 'ignorant' about epilepsy
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