How do seizures affect a child’s school performance and social well-being? Previous studies have shown that children with epilepsy may have memory problems and process information more slowly, which may affect their ability to do math. Children with epilepsy are also at risk of having depression, which is linked to low self-esteem. In the present study, Drs. Prasad and Corbett looked at the impact of epilepsy on math ability and self-esteem measures from survey data collected by Statistics Canada’s National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (1994-2009).
For this study, measures of math ability and self-esteem were collected from 71 children with epilepsy, 8-15 years old, and compared to children who did not have epilepsy. The researchers found that children who had epilepsy but no other health impairments performed just as well as their peers on math tests. However, children with epilepsy who had additional health issues, such as problems with vision, hearing, walking, or emotions, did show a decrease in math scores compared to their peers.
In children who do not have epilepsy, self-esteem generally decreases between the ages of 8 and 15. However, in children with epilepsy, this relationship is not as simple. Some children with epilepsy do show lower self-esteem levels with age, while others remain the same. The authors suggest that self-esteem measures might be related to the severity of epilepsy. Children with frequent uncontrolled seizures may experience more social isolation, leading to a greater drop in self-esteem. However, it is also possible that children with more severe epilepsy are protected from experiencing some of the challenges of becoming a teenager, which may explain why self-esteem levels remained the same with age.
Possible future research might look at how differences in brain development or seizure type might affect these results, and look for strategies to improve school performance in children with epilepsy.