Ontario to implement new comprehensive epilepsy policy in schools

Schools across Ontario will soon be implementing new policies regarding the administration of epilepsy rescue medications for students living with the condition.

The motion, which was passed at Queen’s Park on Nov. 15, will require school boards to implement a comprehensive epilepsy policy, which includes training teachers and staff on the administration of the medication to students having an epileptic seizure.

Epilepsy Toronto calls it a “significant leap forward for epilepsy advocacy.”

“We have policies and procedures in place for students with prevalent medical conditions, such as anaphylaxis and asthma, and staff in the schools are trained in administering lifesaving medications for these students. We don’t have such a policy in place for students with epilepsy,” said Elana Ellison, coordinator of Children and Youth Services at Epilepsy Toronto.

“This motion is calling on the Ministry of Education to require school boards to implement policies around the training of staff in administering these rescue medications so staff would be trained in understanding when the rescue medication would need to be administered, what would be the criteria and, of course, how to administer it safely,” she explained.

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The Toronto family of nine-year-old Emily Greco, who lives with a rare seizure disorder, fought for the change to happen after staff at their daughter’s school expressed concern a year ago over the possibility of having to give her emergency epilepsy medication on an upcoming field trip.

“The alarm bells went off because the night before, our expectations are that she’s going tomorrow,” said Daniel Greco, Emma’s father.

“I just thought the medical piece would be the hardest fight we’d ever have to do and it’s funny that when something gets resolved, it seems like there’s something else that needs to be fought,” said Monica Diaz-Greco, Emma’s mother.

Emma was ultimately able to attend the day trip, but the experience inspired the family to advocate for better policies in schools to accommodate students with epilepsy.

“When you see someone having a seizure, it’s extremely scary and frightening, so our goal is to empower teachers and empower staff to know how to respond,” said Ellison.

“I had a private member’s bill coming up, and this issue was brought to my attention, and it’s something that’s near and dear to my heart. And I saw this as an opportunity for our government to … have a proactive approach and take action to prevent potential tragedies,” said MPP for Burlington, Natalie Pierre, who sponsored the motion.

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“The motion passed in the House a few weeks back, and we’ve taken this back to the folks at the Ministry of Education who will put forth options in terms of next steps to implement the motion,” said Pierre.

For the Diaz-Greco family, this is a ‘victory.’

“As parents, we want to feel comfortable sending our child to school … we don’t want to worry is something going to happen and nobody can be able to help her,” said Diaz-Greco.

Epilepsy Toronto said this will impact “thousands of students across Ontario” who are living with epilepsy.

“We want to create a climate where staff feel confident in responding to seizures and knowing how to keep their students safe,” said Ellison.

“The ball is in the court of the Ministry of Education to think about how this could be implemented in an effective way so that we can best support the needs of students with epilepsy in schools.”

Click to play video: 'Comprehensive epilepsy policies coming to Ontario schools'

Comprehensive epilepsy policies coming to Ontario schools

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