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Faculty & Staff

Guide to Accommodating Students with Disabilities

Accommodations for Students with Seizure Disorders

To ensure their safety, students with active seizure disorders are advised to provide the Office of Disability Services, Campus Police as first responders, and instructors with the following information:

  • Type, characteristics, and frequency of seizures
  • Name of physician, medications, and emergency contact numbers
  • Instructions regarding appropriate assistance during a seizure

Become familiar with the three most common seizure disorders: Generalized Tonic-Clonic (Grand Mal), The Absence (Petit Mal), and the Complex Partial (Psychomotor or Temporal Lobe).  Each type has different effects on different individuals.  Not all seizures are as evident as the Grand Mal.  Some are undetectable except to the trained observer.

Please observe current medical precautions for students who have active seizures to ensure their safety.  Faculty who observe a student experiencing a Tonic-Clonic (Grand Mal) seizure in their classrooms or other locations on campus should report the incident immediately to Campus Police before notifying Disability Services.  DS may assist in arranging transportation other than emergency vehicles or contacting family members.

The most common seizure disorder in adults is the Complex Partial.  During a complex partial, a student is either completely unaware of surroundings or consciousness is substantially impaired.  The student may feel fear or anger, or distortions may occur in taste, sound, or hearing.  When a seizure occurs, individuals may go through a series of motions called "automatisms" of which they have no conscious knowledge.  The automatic behavior may take many forms: smacking of the lips, chewing, fumbling with clothing or buttons, restlessness, walking, or pacing.  A period of confused consciousness may follow, lasting from a few moments to half an hour, depending on the individual. Seizure incidence and frequency vary dramatically among individuals.

Characteristics of most complex partial seizures are the following:

  • Sudden arrest of activity with staring
  • Blank, dazed facial expression; the person appears to be unaware of his environment
  • A clouding of consciousness; the person cannot accurately interpret his environment
  • Repetitive, automatic and purposeless behavior
  • Lip smacking, chewing movements with the mouth, playing with nearby objects
  • Incoherent or irrelevant speech
  • The student has no memory of his behavior or what has happened around him

Seizure disorders are perhaps the most difficult to deal with academically because of the time element lost (particularly during in-class assignments, tests, and other classroom activities) as well as the effects of the seizure on the student: disorientation, memory loss, loss of concentration, alterations in the student's behavior, fatigue, and headaches. 

The following information and suggested accommodations will assure that the student with a seizure disorder is afforded every opportunity to succeed academically:

  • Avoid tense, anxiety-provoking interpersonal confrontations with the student as they may trigger the onset of a seizure.
  • Permit the student to tape classes and/or assist in securing a volunteer note taker to assure that s/he will have a record of lectures, assignments, class discussions, and announcements.
  • Please be patient if a student with a seizure disorder asks or repeats questions previously discussed or answered during class.
  • Allow the student additional minutes for tests and examinations in a separate location with reduced distractions.  Oral testing may be appropriate.
  • Allow students extra out-of-class time (within reason) to catch up or reorient themselves to class notes and/or assignments.

Please refer such students to the Office of Disability Services in S207 (857-7286).