Occupational Therapy for Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a seizure disorder that can make it challenging to complete everyday activities. Occupational therapy is a rehabilitation profession that helps people engage in daily activities that are meaningful to them, despite their disabilities.

In this article, learn more about occupational therapy for epilepsy.

Healthcare provider working with with young patient doing a hand exercise with a small ball

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What Is Occupational Therapy?

An occupational therapist helps people overcome challenges to engage in their desired occupations (activities). This might involve adjusting the activity, altering the environment, adding assistive devices, or changing personal factors like strength, flexibility, ergonomics, and fine motor skills.

Examples of occupations include:

  • Attending school
  • Playing
  • Hobbies
  • Work
  • Dressing
  • Cleaning
  • Going to the bathroom
  • Bathing
  • Managing medications
  • Driving
  • Sleeping
  • Taking care of others

Occupational Therapy vs. Physical Therapy

Occupational therapy and physical therapy focus on different aspects of rehabilitation but often collaborate to achieve a larger goal.

Occupational therapists focus on improving a person's ability to engage in meaningful activities, whereas physical therapists focus on improving their ability to move their body.

An Example of OT vs. PT for Epilepsy

A child with epilepsy sustains an injury from a seizure and is referred to both physical and occupational therapy. This is what each treatment might entail:

  • The physical therapist might work on exercises to improve strength and pain after a seizure-induced injury.
  • The occupational therapist might work with the child and family to track symptoms, alter the home environment to reduce the risk of injury, or suggest alternative ways for the child to play, dress, or bathe to maintain independence while reducing their chance of injury.

Occupational Therapy for Epilepsy

The role of occupational therapy for someone with epilepsy is to help them engage more fully in daily life and occupations, despite their condition.

Challenges of Living with Epilepsy

Having epilepsy comes with many challenges that can impact your day-to-day life and make you feel limited in what you can do.

Some of the challenges of living with epilepsy that occupational therapists can help with include:

  • Frequent falls
  • Anxiety and/or fear about falls, seizures, and losing independence
  • Risks of living or being alone
  • Social isolation
  • Surgeries
  • Family dynamics

Long Term Side Effects of Seizures on Cognitive Abilities

People with epilepsy can have problems with cognition, including skills such as memory, concentration, attention, executive function, and more. Various factors, including side effects from antiepileptic medications and the frequency, duration, and intensity of seizures, can contribute to this.

Benefits of OT

Epilepsy seizures and the fear of having one can lead a person with epilepsy to withdraw from meaningful activities, limit their socializing, isolate themselves, and more.

Some of the ways people with epilepsy can benefit from OT include:

  • Learning to track symptoms and understand their triggers
  • Improving medication management
  • Learning energy conservation strategies to help with seizure-related fatigue
  • Learning stress and anxiety management strategies
  • Creating routines for eating, exercising, and self-care
  • Improving sleep routines and reducing sleep-associated seizures
  • Learning cognitive rehabilitation and compensation strategies for cognitive symptoms
  • Receiving environmental assessments and recommendations for changes to improve safety
  • Training in assistive devices
  • Increasing social engagement with strategies to confidently manage seizure risks
  • Increasing involvement in hobbies, work, and community activities
  • Learning and practicing strategies for communicating health needs in social, work, and health settings

OT for Children With Epilepsy

Many children with epilepsy see an occupational therapist as part of their larger healthcare team. This could be at home, at a therapy clinic, or even at school.

Occupational therapists may help with sensory integration, social skills, fine motor skills, altering the home or school environment, and educating family and school staff about epilepsy and adjustments that can be made to keep the child safe and engaged.

Occupational Therapy After Surgery

Some people with epilepsy will undergo surgery to help treat symptoms and improve seizure control. Occupational therapy may be prescribed before or after surgery for various reasons.

An occupational therapist could help you set up your home and support system to prepare for post-surgery recovery. They may also recommend certain assistive devices or strategies for performing activities of daily living (ADL) as you recover.

Sometimes, occupational therapy is recommended for cognitive side effects of epilepsy and surgery, or to track the progress of symptoms.

One study by occupational therapists found that driving performance improved after epilepsy surgery; driving is a large area of occupational therapy practice, and you may see an occupational therapist if you struggle with this skill.

Tips for Living Independently

Many people with epilepsy desire to live independently but are held back by valid concerns about their seizures and fear of triggers. Depending on seizure frequency, severity, and duration, they may or may not be able to live alone.

However, many people with epilepsy can live independently, with certain steps in place to keep them safe.

Tips for living independently with epilepsy include the following:

  • Have a seizure action plan in place.
  • Do your best to become aware of and avoid your seizure triggers.
  • Live on one level; avoid internal stairs, if possible.
  • Wear a medical alert bracelet or install a home alarm system.
  • Keep a key lock box outside your house for emergency professionals.
  • Don't use locks inside your house; use a flippable sign to indicate whether the room you are in is occupied instead.
  • Use a bathroom door that swings outward, so you are not blocking it in case you have a seizure.
  • Minimize hazards in the home that could injure you during a seizure, such as by placing soft coverings on furniture corners and reducing clutter.
  • Use shatterproof glass for mirrors and avoid glass tables.
  • Take a shower instead of a bath.
  • Ensure that shower drains work properly.
  • Order meal prep kits to avoid using knives or potentially dangerous kitchen equipment.
  • Set up regular times to call loved ones to check in.

Talk to Your Healthcare Provider About OT

If you or your child have epilepsy, you may want to talk to your healthcare provider about seeing an occupational therapist. Whether you struggle with anxiety, social withdrawal, managing seizures, or advocating for yourself at school or work, occupational therapy could help.


Epilepsy is a seizure disorder that has the potential to significantly limit a person's independence. Occupational therapy may be prescribed to help you maximize your engagement in activities you need or want to do while taking your epilepsy into account.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can someone with epilepsy live on their own?

    Yes, someone with epilepsy can live on their own. However, factors like seizure severity and frequency, medication side effects, and environment will help determine whether it's a possibility.

  • What’s the difference between occupational therapy and physical therapy?

    Occupational therapists focus on improving a person's ability to engage in activities, whereas physical therapists focus on improving their ability to move their body.

  • How long does it take to recover after epilepsy surgery?

    Recovery after epilepsy surgery can take anywhere from a few weeks to multiple months.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Occupational Therapy Association. About occupational therapy.

  2. University of Southern California CHAN Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. Lifestyle redesign for epilepsy.

  3. Novak A, Vizjak K, Rakusa M. Cognitive impairment in people with epilepsyJ Clin Med. 2022;11(1):267. doi:10.3390/jcm11010267

  4. Crizzle AM, Classen S, LaFranca C, et al. Assessing the driving performance of a person with epilepsy presurgery and postsurgeryThe American Journal of Occupational Therapy. 2013;67(3):e24-e29. doi:10.5014/ajot.2013.006569

  5. Epilepsy Foundation. Safety at home.

  6. Epilepsy Foundation. Lifestyle and independent living.

  7. Epilepsy Foundation. Recovering after epilepsy surgery.

By Sarah Bence
Sarah Bence, OTR/L, is an occupational therapist and freelance writer. She specializes in a variety of health topics including mental health, dementia, celiac disease, and endometriosis.