Foundation raises epilepsy awareness

It's a disorder of the brain that causes a person to have recurring seizures.

There are 20 different types of seizures, and they can be hard to distinguish, especially in young children.

For any parent whose children are living with epilepsy, it can be scary watching your child having seizures. But there are ways to help raise awareness and eliminate negative images associated with epilepsy.

Four-year-old Emmett Leyden goes to pre-school at Stock School on the Northwest Side.

Two years ago, he started having seizures. His mom, Erin, was terrified.

"In the beginning, he had seizures every day, up to 200 a day, and it was several different types of seizures. It's not your basic or your well-know grand mal seizures," she said.

After Emmett was diagnosed with epilepsy, the Leydens had to learn how to deal with it.

"He would just be standing there and collapse, hit his head on the table when eating on a toy, so he had to wear a helmet most of the time," Erin said.

A year ago, they found the right medication to help control his seizures.

"It took us a lot of trial and error with medications and different treatments," Erin said.

From the Leydens' experience, Erin and her sister-in-law Anne Marie Clancy started the American Epilepsy Outreach Foundation to help educate schools about epilepsy.

"It's important that the schools are aware of all of the different types of seizures, and it's important that the schools have basic information about epilepsy," said Anne Marie.

If the school staff has some knowledge about epilepsy, they can help parents.

"There's a lot of children in school who are having seizures, and oftentimes, parents don't even know it. Usually they say by the time your child's in middle school, the only contact the parent has with their child is at the dinner table, the only eye-to-eye contact," said Anne Marie.

Depending on the type of seizures, there are four ways to assist.

"The first one is to remain calm. And (the second), is to clear the area, you know, spread out the desks," Anne Marie said. "The third is comfort the person, comfort to everyone around them because it's very alarming for the crowd to see somebody having a grand mail seizure. And the fourth one is to call 911 if certain situations happen."

Educating people about epilepsy helps remove some of the stigmas associated with the disability.

"People are judged when they have epilepsy and seizures, and so we just want people that are living with epilepsy to get the compassion and the understanding, and we think that knowledge is power," said Anne Marie.

If you are interested in getting involved or want training from the American Epilepsy Outreach Foundation, go to

Copyright © 2024 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.