April 11, 2019

How to talk to friends about epilepsy

Having epilepsy isn't like getting braces, going to the movies or getting your first cell phone — not every teen goes through it. So understandably, it can be tough for children and teens to talk to their friends about epilepsy and how they can help in the moment of a seizure.

Starting the conversation might be a little uncomfortable, but your child could be pleasantly surprised at how understanding and helpful their friends will be. There is a good chance they will take an interest in wanting to learn more about epilepsy and could become part of the support team.

Because children and teens with epilepsy might find the conversation with friends to be difficult, here are some tips for them:

Why have the conversation?

Having this conversation with close friends could be tough, but talking to them about epilepsy is important because it might be scary and confusing — for them and you — if they are not in the know. 

What to say

Sometimes it can be helpful to compare epilepsy to other conditions that people might better understand, such as diabetes. Explain what a seizure is like for you and what they can do to help you in the moment of a seizure. Point out your medical bracelet and talk about what information can be found on it in case of an emergency.

When and where

Starting the conversation might be the hardest part. Try to pick a time and place where you won't be disturbed or interrupted. In-person conversations are best and allow for more questions from your friends and family. Conversations via text, email or phone might not be as effective.

How to explain it best

Explain it factually, but keep it simple and casual — your doctor might have brochures that you can hand out to your friends or family as you introduce the topic. Because there is more than one type of epilepsy, explain to them the kind you have and touch on the other types.

Once the initial conversation has happened, it's important that friends ask any questions they might have.

The UW Health Kids Comprehensive Pediatric Epilepsy Program at American Family Children's Hospital specializes in the care of children who have experienced their first seizure to those whose epilepsy has progressed to a more difficult stage.

Our team consists of epileptologists, neuropsychologists, neuroradiologists, epilepsy neurosurgeons, registered dietitians, epilepsy nurses and EEG technologists. Our goal is to help children with epilepsy live active, productive lives. We pride ourselves in being responsive to the needs of our patients and families.