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Epilepsy and Learning Disability

Epilepsy and Learning Disability (LD) can occur together. This is often related to brain damage owing to head injury, birth anoxia, brain infections, genetic or hereditary disorders.

Can Epilepsy Cause Learning Disability?

  • Yes, especially if they share the same cause of brain damage.

  • Children with LD and epilepsy more often have complex partial seizures.

  • In general if epilepsy and LD are associated, the epilepsy is more difficult to control and this can aggravate the LD further.

Children with epilepsy may have difficulties in scholastic and academic performance for a variety of reasons:

  • The seizure itself may interrupt school attendance, involve frequent visits related to medical care to doctor or hospital, and if seizures are frequent can cause brain damage.

  • Medication and its side effects can interfere with academics

  • Adjustment problems due to epilepsy and lack of co-operation by peers and teachers

  • Last but not the least, stigmatisation and marginalisation, overprotection by parents and the fear of seizures occurring at school can cause a lot of emotional stress and interfere with studies

One factor to be noted in the relationship between Epilepsy and learning disorders is Gender.

  • Epilepsy is slightly more common in males

  • LD is twice as common in males than in females

  • The male differentiated brain is normally less skilled in verbal tasks and better at visuospatial tasks

  • In LD however there is difficulty with both verbal and visuaspatial tasks

Language functions are more compartmentalised to one hemisphere in male differentiated brains

Can Epilepsy Make LD Worse?

There are many reasons why it can:

  • Difference in scholastic skills may be more obvious as the child grows up

  • Lifestyle is restrictive and the child may achieve or aspire to achieve little or limited education

  • Underlying disease may be progressive

  • Drugs may impair cognition and affect academic performance

  • Subclinical seizures may interfere with learning

  • Additional brain damage as after status or repeated head injury can occur

Lifestyle Advice for Epileptic

Some avoidable factors that can provoke seizures are:

  • Lack of or inadequate sleep

  • Exposure to too much sun

  • Fever

  • Physical tiredness

  • Emotional stress including overexcitement

  • Missing meals

Advice for Caregivers

Coping with Epilepsy and LD needs

  • Love

  • Patience

  • Perseverance

  • Realistic and Practical approach

  • Need based training

  • Acceptance and Understanding

  • Appreciation and encouragement.

Some basics about Learning Disorders and Disabilities:

Learning Disorders are different and must be distinguished from Learning Disability

  • Lack of sleep

  • Inadequate food

  • Poverty

  • Poor health

  • Bad family atmosphere

  • Inadequate peer recognition

  • Other social factors

Learning Disability implies a specific brain disturbance such as

  • Dyslexia

  • Autism

  • Attention Deficit Disorder

  • Minimal Brain Dysfunction

  • Developmental Speech & Language Disorders

Learning Disabilities


  • In dyslexia there is a weakness in the area of the left hemisphere of the brain responsible for linking the perception and production of the sound patterns of speech.

  • This is inherited via a gene on Chromosome 6 and 15

  • On PET scans in dyslexics during phonological tasks the insula shows less activity

  • The connection between how words look and how words sound is the crucial defect in dyslexia

  • Intelligence in children with dyslexia can be average or superior

  • Children with severe learning disabilities have IQ levels less than 50% of average

  • Those with moderate LD have a level between 50-70%

  • Most children with LD may have normal or superior intelligence

  • Those with severe LD & epilepsy may have other impairments (about 25%)

Minimal Brain Dysfunction

  • Various combinations of hyperactivity, learning disability and motor co-ordination problems with or without epilepsy can occur

  • These deficits may occur singly or in different degrees as a mixed variety

  • Most of these children can easily be integrated into normal society and school as their deficits are usually mild.

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