Stigma comes in many forms. It can be people who still believe cruel and untrue myths about epilepsy that make it seem as if the condition is someone's fault or a punishment. There are teachers who try to stop children from participating in school trips or activities, even though in most cases that's illegal (see Your Child At School). Stigma can cause great unhappiness, when children are left out of parties and other social events because their friends' parents are afraid of having to handle a seizure. Even worse, it can get in the way of a child having friends or lead to bullying or teasing.
In some communities, there may be additional issues such as language or cultural barriers that can prevent children from receiving good health care.
Your local Epilepsy Foundation can help you fight discrimination in your community. The national Epilepsy Foundation's active advocacy program is fighting for the rights of people with epilepsy on all fronts, including Congress, the legal system and the media. It also partners with people like 'Mighty Mike' Simmel, a Harlem Wizards basketball player with epilepsy who started the 'Bounce Out the Stigma'program.
The more you and your child learn about epilepsy and help to educate others, the better you will be able to fight stigma and discrimination. This site has information for children and adults that you can use. You can also talk with other parents on the Epilepsy Foundation's Parents Helping Parents eCommunity for tips.
While you can't stop all teasing, no child should be afraid to go to school or face humiliation or cruelty. Unfortunately, children with disabilities are more likely to face bullying. It is important to be aware of it, encourage your child to talk about it, and work with teachers to prevent it. Bullying can lead to depression, physical problems such as headaches and poor appetite, absences from school and even suicidal thoughts. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' 'Stop Bullying Now!' campaign has information on what kids and adults can do.Sometimes, it takes just one person to 'set the stage' for understanding and support. In this article fromEpilepsyUSA a mother writes about how her son Derrick's first grade teacher established a buddy system and educated his classmates on what to do if he had a seizure. Their support and friendship has continued through high school!