The Kids On the Block
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Brian McDaniel

Brian McDaniel is 11 years old and in the fifth grade at Woodburn Elementary. Brian lives with his mother, who teaches piano and gives voice lessons in their home, and his father, who is the weather forecaster at a local television station.


Brian is a bright, outgoing boy with lots of friends. His favorite activity is playing the saxophone in the school band. He also enjoys baseball, basketball, karate and reading scary stories. If he's not doing homework or playing with his friends, it's a good guess that he's practicing on his saxophone. Besides music, Brian's other favorite subject at school is social studies.


When Brian was five years old, he had his first seizure just before waking up in the morning. His parents saw the seizure and knew he needed to see a doctor. Brian's regular doctor sent him to a specialist, a neurologist, who conducted an EEG. That's how Brian and his family discovered that he had epilepsy. Brian also had a CAT scan and an MRI to try to determine the reason for his seizure disorder. But, as with many people with epilepsy, the doctors were not able to identify a cause.


Now, Brian knows that the kind of seizures he has are called tonic-clonic. That means that when he has a seizure, his body becomes stiff and then jerks rhythmically. But Brian is not aware of what is happening during his seizures because the seizures cause him to lose consciousness. He does know that after a seizure, he often feels very tired and has a headache. Brian and his parents think that it is very important to tell his friends, teachers, and coaches about his epilepsy so they will know what to do if he has a seizure.


Brian takes an anti-epileptic drug, a medicine which controls seizures, everyday. The current medication controls his epilepsy very well. Now, if he has a seizure it is usually only when he has a fever due to another illness; it rarely happens at other times. Before the medicine controlled his seizures, he had several seizures a week, usually right before waking in the morning, but also occasionally at other times during the day.


Brian spends an hour a day working with a resource teacher at school. He is just as intelligent as the other children in his class, but in order to achieve his full potential, he gets some additional assistance with his school work because, like some children with epilepsy, Brian also has some learning disabilities.


Brian has always believed that, while epilepsy is one part of who he is, he is a lot more like other kids than he is different. That's why whenever anyone questions his ability to do something because of his epilepsy, he explains that it's up to him (and his parents) to decide what things he can do, not anyone else. At age 11, Brian is already a budding disability rights advocate. As he likes to say, "It's really important to remember that in most cases, people with disabilities can do everything that other people do, even if they might do it in a different way."