A diagnosis of epilepsy is all encompassing. It affects the ability of the individual to be recognized and be considered worthy as a member of society. The continued use of the labels of “disease” and “handicap” evidences the reality of stigma and discrimination that still endures. Resilience is evident in the coping strategies of these individuals daily.
Despite concerted campaigns designed to inform and change the attitudes of society, many children are misunderstood and handled inappropriately. Studies today confirm that up to 30% of teachers in some countries still associate epilepsy with insanity. For many, the concept of fear leads to prejudice that flows on to stigma and discrimination. This situation cannot be sustained in contemporary times.
Where can we, as a society and a community of learners of knowledge, unlearn the attitudes and behaviors that disable those who are disempowered by virtue of a diagnosis, and then learn to accept and appreciate those with diverse abilities? The answer may be found in our schools—the places long understood and accepted to be venues for learning, for academic knowledge, and for the preparation of the young to take their place as citizens in our world.
Teachers are increasingly viewed to be leaders, with accrediting and registering bodies setting their expectations through explicit professional teaching standards. It is vital that teacher preparation both empowers and enables a positive difference, and impacts on the injustices that occur as a result of miscommunication and ignorance.
Using a critical social research methodology, this article outlines how a review and interrogation of particular instances, educational policy, critical history, and the media portrayal of epilepsy has informed recommendations for educational policy, teacher education and teacher action, educational curriculum, and the need for broader education and understanding in society.