What is a Seizure Disorder?
Seizures result from imbalance in the electrical activity of the brain. Although the
ultimate causes of seizures remain uncertain, there is evidence that brain injuries
and tumors may give rise to seizures. There are three distinct types of seizures.
Petit mal means "little" seizure and is characterized by eye blinking or staring.
It begins abruptly with a sudden dimming of consciousness and may last only a few
seconds. Grand mal seizures may be characterized by generalized contractions of muscles,
twitching and limb jerking. A few minutes of such movement may be followed by unconsciousness,
sleep, or extreme fatigue. Psychomotor seizures range from mild to severe and may
include staring, mental confusion, uncoordinated and random movement, incoherent speech
and behavior outbursts, followed by immediate recovery.
Procedures to Follow if a Seizure Occurs in the Classroom
Students with seizure disorders often take preventative medication, which makes the
possibility of a seizure occurring in class rare. However, if a seizure does occur
in the classroom, the following procedures are suggested:
- Keep calm. Ease the person to the floor and open the shirt. You cannot stop the seizure.
Let it run its course and do not try to revive the person.
- Remove hard or sharp objects which may injure the person, but do not restrain the
person in any way.
- Do not force anything between the person's teeth.
- Turn the person's head to one side for release of saliva. Place something soft under
- Make sure that breathing is unobstructed but do not be concerned if breathing is irregular.
When the person regains consciousness, reorient him/her to surroundings, and allow
him/her to rest if desired.
- If the seizure lasts beyond a few minutes, or if the person seems to pass from one
seizure to another without regaining consciousness, dial 911 and contact Campus Police
to inform them of the situation. This rarely happens but when it does, it should be
- Frequently, those who experience a grand mal seizure lose control of their body functions.
To avoid embarrassment, student should be covered with a blanket or sheet.
- Note takers may be needed for students who experience petit mal seizures as they may
"blank out" for a brief time, and continuity will be lost in class.
Information Courtesy of Guilford Technical Community College. Used with permission.
Student Support Services
Student Services Building