For parents of children with epilepsy, the fear of the child having a seizure is always there. That fear is amplified when the child goes to school, but a new New Jersey law is designed to put parents’ minds at ease. It’s Paul’s Law, named after Paul St. Pierre, a 13-year-old boy from Maple Shade who has epilepsy.
According to Bernard Maria, MD, chief of the division of Child Neurology and Development Medicine for Atlantic Health System, “historically, parents have been burdened with having to communicate to the school and teacher. Paul’s Law assists families with an advocacy effort and training of school personnel, so they are more aware and informed about seizures and epilepsy and are better prepared to manage.”
Approximately 12,000 children in New Jersey have been diagnosed with epilepsy. Epilepsy is characterized as having two or more seizures on different days. “The brain is powered by very synchronized electricity, about as much as it takes to power a 10-watt light bulb,” says Dr. Maria. “When we lose that synchronization or when there’s an electrical short in the brain, it produces a seizure. Approximately one in 20 children will have a seizure by age 20, and one in 200 will have recurring seizures or epilepsy.”
Physicians at Atlantic Health System – designated a Level Four Center by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers – are equipped to take care of children with seizures and epilepsy across the pediatric age spectrum. “There may or may not be a family history of seizures or epilepsy. We have diagnostic services with genetics that look at epilepsy genes. Our team does everything from evaluation and observation, all the way to medications, special diets, and various surgical options.”
Dr. Maria says Paul’s Law will allow parents to request that the school complete a seizure action plan. “The plan details instructions on what to do in the event of a seizure such as letting the child lie flat on the ground, turn to one side, and not putting anything in the mouth. If a seizure lasts more than five minutes, the school nurse may administer rescue medicine.”