Criteria for Diagnosis

The operational definition for epilepsy in these observations included the inability or difficulty for a child to learn in the average classroom. It was believed that if the child had more than one impairment, they were unable to attend school at all. That was the only available operational definition as there was a struggle in identifying and diagnosing both children and adults with epilepsy.

MOH report West Ham 1946

“The definition of an epileptic child for our purpose is one who, by reason of epilepsy cannot be educated in an ordinary school without detriment to the interests of himself or other pupils and requires education in a special school.”


Walthamstow 1955

The criteria for the diagnosis of epilepsy was unclear for a very long time. During he time period that we researched (1930s-1950s) there was little to no adherence to any one definition or set of symptoms to help diagnose, and thus treat an individual with epilepsy. It was a quick transition though that realized brain activity and epilepsy were linked to one another. EEGs were often used along with level of intelectual knowdlege and abiltiy that seemed to be the trackers for epilepsy and how to deal with each case. Today there is a much more sophisicated diagnosis of the condition, but not even a century ago did we struggle to identify and properly treat what affected so many individuals’ quality of life.

We see just how individuals were simply placed in a group purely from a lack of understanding. It was obvious that epilepsy was not easily categorized as a physical handicap or educational impariemtn, but it so happened to fall into the category of needing special attention in the academic field. West Ham 1954

We will further explore the ramifications of diagnosing epilepsy as a learning disorder and isolating individuals faced with this difficult diagnosis in both epileptic colonies along with education and assumed disability of those with what was known as epilepsy at this time.