Raising Children With Chronic Conditions
Bona|January 2018

Parenting a child with a chronic condition is taxing. This makes knowing more about what you’re facing and how to tackle it important.

If you have a child with a chronic health condition, the uncertainty this brings, demands a lot. We look at epilepsy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and asthma.

EPILEPSY

This is a condition in which nerve cell activity in the brain is disturbed, causing seizures. And, it can affect anyone at any age. The illness can be caused by a variety of factors, including previous infections affecting the brain and genetics. In many cases, however, the cause is unknown, explains Professor Jo Wilmshurst – head  of paediatric neurology at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town. He explains that because of this, epilepsy tends to be a very individual condition. This means that while changes can occur in the frequency, severity or type of seizures, there’s no rule as to when, what and how these might happen with your child.

Thembakazi Babana (35) has lived with epilepsy since she was two years old. But, her parents kept this a secret in order to protect her. She only discovered the reason for her seizures when she was 16. Now, she manages them with medication and works to raise awareness about the illness. She wants people to see it as a medical disorder, and not a curse.

“It is usually evident if the disease will improve as the child grows through adolescence and into early adulthood. Mostly, it can improve with time as your child’s brain matures,” explains Prof Jo. He says an example is childhood absence epilepsy – a generalised disorder affecting the whole brain. It is characterised by a ‘motor arrest’ where the child suddenly becomes still and doesn’t respond to touch. This normally begins from four to six years, and resolves at ten or earlier. “Other conditions can change as the brain matures, with different types of seizures occurring,” Prof Jo continues.

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