Academic problems in children with seizures: Relationships with neuropsychological functioning and family variables during the 3years after onset

David W. Dunn, C. S. Johnson, S. M. Perkins, P. S. Fastenau, A. W. Byars, T. J. deGrauw, J. K. Austin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Objectives: Children with long-standing epilepsy have a significantly increased risk of academic underachievement compared with healthy controls. We prospectively followed children from seizure onset to assess the relationship between change in neuropsychological functioning and change in academic achievement and to explore the risk and protective moderating effects of demographic, seizure, and family variables. Methods: As part of a larger study, neuropsychological and academic data were collected at both baseline and 36. months for 219 children 6-14. years of age with seizures. Prior factor analysis of results from a battery of well-standardized neuropsychological tests yielded four factors: language, processing speed, attention/executive/construction, and verbal memory/learning. Academic achievement was measured with the Woodcock-Johnson Revised Achievement Test Battery. Correlation coefficients and linear mixed models were used for analysis. Results: The reading and math scores of children with seizures and siblings did not differ at baseline, but children with seizures had lower scores than siblings at 36. months. Writing scores were significantly lower for affected children than siblings at both times. Among children with seizures, there were positive correlations between neuropsychological functioning and academic achievement at baseline and 36. months. Changes in language and in verbal memory/learning were positively correlated with change in reading achievement (r= 0.25 and r= 0.17, respectively). Age at onset moderated the association between change in neuropsychological functioning and change in reading and writing achievement (P≤. 0.006), with stronger relationships among younger children (β. = 0.25-0.44). The association between change in language and change in writing achievement was moderated by caregiver anxiety (P= 0.04; stronger for more anxious parents, β. = 0.40), and the association between change in processing speed and change in math achievement was moderated by etiology (P= 0.02; stronger for symptomatic/cryptogenic vs idiopathic, β. = 0.29). Gender and other family variables did not have significant moderating effects. Conclusions: Changes in neuropsychological function were associated with changes in academic achievement following onset of seizures, with risk factors being younger age at onset, lower caregiver education, high parental anxiety, and symptomatic/cryptogenic etiology. Academic performance should be closely monitored in children with early-onset seizures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)455-461
Number of pages7
JournalEpilepsy and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1 2010


  • Academic achievement
  • Age at onset
  • Caregiver anxiety
  • Children
  • First seizure
  • Neuropsychological functioning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neurology

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