Academic underachievement among children with epilepsy: Proportion exceeding psychometric criteria for learning disability and associated risk factors

Philip S. Fastenau, Shen Jianzhao Shen, David W. Dunn, Joan K. Austin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

118 Scopus citations


This study assessed rates of learning disabilities (LD) by several psychometric definitions in children with epilepsy and identified risk factors. Participants (N = 173, ages 8-15 years) completed IQ screening, academic achievement testing, and structured interviews. Children with significant head injury, chronic physical conditions, or mental retardation were excluded. Using an IQ-achievement discrepancy definition, 48% exceeded the cutoff for LD in at least one academic area; using low-achievement definitions, 41% to 62% exceeded cutoffs in at least one academic area. Younger children with generalized nonabsence seizures were at increased risk for math LD using the IQ-achievement discrepancy definition; age of seizure onset and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were risk factors for reading and math LD using low-achievement definitions. Writing was the most common domain affected, but neither ADHD nor seizure variables reliably identified children at risk for writing LD. Although children with earlier seizure onset, generalized nonabsence seizures, and comorbid ADHD appear to be at increased risk for some types of LD by some definitions, these findings largely suggest that all children with epilepsy should be considered vulnerable to LD. A diagnosis of epilepsy (even with controlled seizures and less severe seizure types) should provide sufficient cause to screen school-age children for LD and comorbid ADHD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-207
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Learning Disabilities
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2008



  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Epilepsy
  • IQ-acheivement discrepancies
  • Seizures assessment identification
  • Underachievement
  • Writing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Health Professions(all)
  • Education

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