“A person’s a person, no matter how small.” -Dr. Seuss

Children CAN make a difference! Take Ryan Wood for example.  At 4 years old he is preparing for kindergarten, looking forward to summer T-Ball,  and enjoying being a big brother.  He is also making positive change for other children.  Ryan participated in the 2016 Winter Walk in which he rode his scooter the entire course at Strongsville Mall.  When asked why he did this he reported, “I want to help other kids. There are kids that have epilepsy that can’t be here for all the fun”.  Ryan spent several weeks campaigning by making phone calls to family and friends as well as posting a series of videos on Facebook to talk about epilepsy and how important it is to help others.  His videos were shared on many different Facebook pages and he received donations from several different states!  Every day after preschool he would ask to view his website to see who donated.  He then would call and thank them.   Ryan’s success was so much more than he and his family could have imagined!  He raised $825 for the Epilepsy Association which made him to top fundraiser for his age group.  Ryan attended  the

Purple Day Power Lunch at the Epilepsy Association in which he received an award for his efforts.  He was permitted time at preschool to share his award with the classes and talk about epilepsy and helping others.  Ryan’s preschool, St. Augustine Manor Child Enrichment Center, also hosts a Purple Day event in which the children learn about epilepsy through an in-service or puppet show, wear purple, and create purple projects.  The children created a poster this year that currently hangs for all visitors to the Epilepsy Association to see.

Ryan may only be 4 years old, but his efforts raised funds to provide support services to children with epilepsy and their families at no cost to them.

If you would like to learn more about the services that Ryan raised funds for, or helping your child’s school set up an in-service to provide epilepsy education, please call the Epilepsy Association at 216-579-1330.

A Father Remembers His Son – By Kenneth Lawrence

Lawrence Family Bottom Row: Kenneth and Romena  Top Row Left to Right: Kenneth Lawrence, II and Keenan

Lawrence Family
Bottom Row: Kenneth and Romena
Top Row Left to Right: Kenneth Lawrence, II and Keenan

Editor’s note: Several months ago, I had the privilege of meeting Kenneth and Romena Lawrence. The couple recently lost their son Keenan due to epilepsy. The Lawrence’s have chosen to remember Keenan by setting up a memorial fund in his honor Through this loving tribute to their remarkable son, they hope to support other parents raising a child with epilepsy. This month we are sharing Kenneth Lawrence’s tribute to his son Keenan by sharing some of his remembrances.

You asked me if I could give you some information about Keenan. There is so much to share, but I’ll begin Keenan’s story at the age of 11 when he started having seizures.

When Keenan realized what epilepsy was, and that he would live with epilepsy the rest of his life, he got very depressed.  One day he asked me how I would like to be like him.  I responded, “What do you mean?”  He said, “I’m a freak.”  That just hurt to hear, in fact, it wounded me.  Not knowing what to say, I tried to give him some encouraging words.

That night I prayed for God to give me the wisdom and knowledge to let my son know that he was not a freak.  When I woke up the next morning, something told me to go to the computer and Google “Famous People with Epilepsy.”  Hundreds of pictures of famous people popped up.  I was so excited that I woke Keenan up to show him what I had discovered.  That day, I left him on the computer and when I got back four hours later, Keenan was still there.  He told me that he wanted to read about everyone.  I’m sharing this story because after that point, Keenan never looked back.  Everything Keenan attempted, he mastered.

When Keenan was 8 years old, he invented at board game called Dice Cards.  If you would like to see an infomercial on the game, just Google Dice Cards by Kenny Lawrence.  The game is very entertaining.  Please keep in mind he was only 8 years old when he brought this game to the family.

Keenan showed an early interest in electronics.  At age 12, he found the very first video game that we bought one Christmas for Keenan and his older brother.  The game, Sega Genesis, wasn’t working and Keenan told me that he wanted to try and fix it.  I said that it would be good practice for him.  I remember coming home from work and finding Keenan in his room working away.  After about a month, I started to feel sorry for him, and thought maybe I should jump in and help him out.  Then one day, he told me that he fixed that game!  We went upstairs to his room, and sure enough, he had the game working.  We played that game all night long.  I went to school for electronics and was amazed at the troubleshooting techniques Keenan used.  He diagnosed the problem with the broken game as if he were a certified technician.

When Keenan was attempting to get into college, he needed an admissions letter from his doctor.  I was shocked when I got the letter.  It read as if Keenan were mentally retarded.  We never showed Keenan the letter.  Instead, I made an appointment with his doctor to let her know that for the last three years he was an honor roll student.  She had seen Keenan for eight years and did not know what was going on with him.  The doctor agreed to rewrite the admissions letter, and with her more favorable endorsement, Keenan entered college without any restrictions.

Keenan first went to a junior college, which he didn’t like very much.  He kept telling us that he wanted to go to a technical school.  We encouraged him to stay two years in a junior college, and then agreed to send him to ITT Technical College.  This is when Keenan started accelerating academically.  Keenan was on either the dean’s list or the honor roll the entire time he was at ITT.  During his last two years, he tutored many of his classmates who were of different ages and races.

When we lost Keenan this past January, he was just a few months away from graduating with his Bachelor’s Degree in Electronic Engineering.

I’m not sure how we will ever get over losing Keenan so early in his life.  He worked hard, overcame so much, and showed great promise.  To make sense of everything, we called the Epilepsy Association to see how we could help others.  This is why we started the Keenan Lawrence Memorial Fund.  We want to help other parents see the promise their children have too.  When we first learned of Keenan’s epilepsy, we needed to talk with someone who understood how to raise a child who has seizures.  We needed to know what to expect and how to handle the difficult situations that were bound to arise.  After some research, my wife, Romena, and I selected the Epilepsy Association because of their Kids & Family Program.  We understand how this program helps other families like ours.  As a family, we invite you to support all the Keenan’s who were lost too soon because of epilepsy.  For our friends and family who have asked, “what can I do?’ and for everyone who is moved by our story to help, we ask that you consider making a gift to the Keenan Lawrence Memorial Fund.  The Epilepsy Association has created a link so that donations are securely made on-line.  Here is the link to Keenan’s Memorial Fund.  All proceeds will go to the Epilepsy Association in Cleveland, Ohio.


Calling all teachers — measuring students’ intelligence

From the editor: Students with epilepsy do poorer in school when compared with students managing other chronic medical conditions, even when the epilepsy is well controlled. There is much speculation as to the reasons why this occurs. Blogger Amy Mittinger shares her experiences of being a student and living with epilepsy. Amy is a recent graduate of The Ohio State University.

The Epilepsy Association has developed resources to help educators facilitate the best learning environment for the student with epilepsy. Our programs are free of charge.  Presentations for faculty meetings require only 30 minutes. Classroom programs are available for grades K-12. Additionally, The Be SMART About Epilepsy resource is available for free download from our website. The program provides chapters for every adult in the school setting including bus drivers, safety personnel, coaches, nurses, teachers, aides, and social workers. For more information, please call the Epilepsy Association at 216-579-1330, or e-mail info@epilepsyinfo.org.

We invite you to share your experiences with living with epilepsy. For more information, please contact us at blog@epilepsyinfo.org.

Amy Mittinger with Father at her OSU commencement

Amy Mittinger with Father at her OSU commencement

Calling all teachers — measuring students’ intelligence

If a student aces a test about the periodic table, history dates, or on Spanish vocabulary, that is undoubtedly impressive. But think about it: is that a measure of their intelligence? Or just their memory?

I never challenged this incongruity in the past as a student. If anything, I used it to my advantage. I read course content, memorized it, regurgitated it on tests, and wah-lah! The “A”s were returned in hordes.

But notice that the term “learn” didn’t appear once in that process. Only after developing epilepsy in tenth grade did I notice this, and then encounter a problem. I experienced seizures in a part of my brain that inhibited not my intelligence or even physical stability, but just my memory. So, the goal of memorizing and reciting information on tests became less reachable in high school. And almost impossible in college. To worsen things, every class consisted of nothing but lectures and tests. So, like all students, my grade was measured by nothing but continuous recitation of facts on Scantron sheets.

I was never given the option to prove my intelligence in other ways. This left me no choice but to introduce, even defend, myself to professors as the “memory impaired” epileptic student who needed assistance taking tests.

I’ll save you the specifics, and summarize that more often than not, I lost the battle. It was disheartening. I failed to prove my intelligence to people who never even attempted to understand me initially. And my grades suffered as a result. I had to repeat a couple classes due to receiving failing grades. (Again, grades based on nothing but a total of two cumulative exams, mind you.)

So, what’s my point? It isn’t to fight my teachers, the “bad guys.” Rather, it’s to help them distinguish between all students’ memory and intelligence… and stress that one (memory) should not define the other (intelligence). I know that for some students, the two may coincide perfectly. But for others like me, when the two are off balance, adjustments should be made. And there are a variety of options for this: open-book timed tests, essay tests, class projects, and more.

Such adjustments are both feasible and doable. Not to mention that actual learning takes place more frequently here than via cumulative exams. So teachers, I’m calling on you to bridge this gap and make it happen… for your students.