A teenaged son (13) of a good friend wants to become a carpenter when he
grows up. His epilepsy is not severe, it is under some control with meds,
but he does still have seizures every once in a while. For example, he is
on the school football team. He hasn't actually done any woodworking so
far beyond hammering some boards together, so I am interested in teaching
him a few things -- if it can be done safely. Any skills I have are with
power tools. I have some questions.
First, so any replies do not have to carry disclaimers, I am assuming that
any advice provided here is not from a lawyer, doctor, Indian Chief, risk
assessment expert, etc. I assume all risk knowing that some advice
provided here may not be good and could even be bad.
Anyone have any experience working with an epileptic kid to teach him ww?
Even if you have not worked with an epileptic, if you have experience
working with any kids/teens w/ motor skill problems, that could be helpful.
Of course most power tools are inherently dangerous. Anyone familiar with
reasonable ways to make any of the more common power tools "safer" for this
It seems that this situation calls out for schooling in the dark arts --
Neander skills. I am not sure that this will interest him, though it
might. If so, any tips from the Neanders? (I'd either have to learn these
skills myself first - another good excuse to learn some - or direct the kid
to a local group.)
Does anyone know if someone with epilepsy can become a working carpenter?
Are there any union rules? Any Work Comp rules? Can one be a working
skilled carpenter w/o using power tools? And, w/o having to climb a
Comments and suggestions? TIA. -- Igor
No flickering fluorescents. Induces seizures in some. Same might apply to
stroboscopic effects on some tools.
Just teach him to use wooden fingers instead of his own wherever possible,
and not to look at things which might induce. Most of the seizure meds
today are relatively mild in sedative effects, many are allowed drivers'
licenses on medication, so shouldn't be a problem. Should he begin to
seize, protect him from the sharp tools and let it go. More than 5 minutes
on a grand mal can get dangerous, because of oxygen depletion. Petit mal
types not as frightening for either of you. If he's like most, he'll
"feel" the onset, and turn off all machines.
The following comments are based on: 1) My wife who has a fully controlled
seizure disorder that showed up when she was about 30. 2) My son, a
construction superintendent, who witnessed a frightening seizure related
Some background information you will need and you may already know it: Does
the boy experience an aura "warning" prior to the event, or does he go
directly into the siezure? Are they typically the classic grand mal,
partial, etc.? (I am certainly no expert, but I would think the partial
seizures could be much more of a problem than a full grand mal.) How well
controlled is he with medication - do events occur daily, weekly, less
I'll give you the bad part first. A year or so ago one of my son's workers
fell off of an 8' scaffold. When he arrived at the scene the fellow was
convulsive and had an abrasion on his face. They immediately feared a head
injury. Before the ambulance arrived the young man started to come around
and when his partner described the event the attendant suspected seizure.
Long story-short the worker admitted he had epilepsy but didn't reveal it
because he was afraid he wouldn't be able to work. Earlier that day that
worker was working on a 30' scaffold above a concrete floor! Even though
the fellow was fairly well controlled, the company simply could not stand
the liability and had to let him go.
I passed this on for one reason. There will be a problem, with employers
and others, if his profession involves inherently hazardous work. Also my
wife, who hasn't had a siezure in 20 years, gets guff from the insurance
companies over health coverage. There is a fair amount of bias and
misunderstanding regarding epilepsy - some understandable with regard to
Good stuff second. Can you aim him toward the less hazardous occupations
(I'm ignoring power tool concerns for the moment)? For example, cabinetry,
trim carpentry, specialized artisan types of work, etc. While residential
trim work does involve ladders and scaffold, these trades generally do not
involve extreme heights, outdoor work or working in the presence of heavy
If the boy knows the events are coming and can stop using power tools it
might be OK. For that matter, is he mature enought to step away from the
table saw if he suspects a problem? These are judgements you, the boy and
his parents have to make. This sounds like an opportunity to teach a young
man in need, and to emphasize hand-tool techniques before machines. I
applaud your desire to do so.
This is the straight scoop, 30 yrs ago at Pacific Beach junior High, SD, CA.
8th grade woodshop, one of the guys in my class had a seizure and sawed off
his thumb on the table saw. He was a newer transfer student and no one knew
he had epilepsy.
If you are going to be working with this kid, be sure your insurance is paid
Have a good one,
I've been working with wood as a woodworker for better than twenty years
now and I have epilepsy and I don't have any missing fingers. Most
epileptics have some sort of clue a seizure is coming on. Find out what
he knows about the onset of his seizures.
Check out my Web Page at:
Where you will find:
******** How My Shop Works ******** 5-21-03
* ** Build a $20 DC Separator Can Lid. 1-14-03
** * DC Relay Box Building Plans. 1-14-03
* ** The Bad Air Your Breath Everyday.1-14-03
** * What is a Real Woodworker? 2-8-03
* ** Murphy's Woodworking Definitions. 2-8-03
** * Murphy's Woodworking Laws. 4-6-03
* ** What is the true meaning of life? 1-14-03
** * Woodworker Shop Signs. 2-8-03
On Sun, 31 Oct 2004 11:19:35 -0700, firstname.lastname@example.org (Joe "Woody"
Thank you and the others for the comments and suggestions. Additional
perspectives would also be welcome.
About warnings of an onset. Yes, this may be common, but not the
experience of this teen. So far after4 years or so. (In case it is of
interest, he has had numerous tests and unfortunately there is no single
locus -- in case there is a correlation of some sort.) If only. -- Igor
i've had epilepsy since i was 12 years old,and i can almost always sense a
seizure coming on....that said,since i got older and started taking my meds
faithfully,i've been seizure free for almost 15 years.the key is to take the
meds,take the meds,take the meds!
"Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day,fritter and waste the
hours in an offhand way......"
On 03 Nov 2004 18:35:45 GMT, email@example.com (Rick) wrote:
Rick -- Unfortunately, this kid is on his umpteenth drug now and still
seizes every 2-3 weeks or so. At least the current drug seems to have
little day-to-day side effects. Your story is an inspiration. Maybe as he
reaches his late teens things will settle out somehow, but now it is a
great frustration - regardless of proper drug-taking regimen and efforts of
experts at a major med-center. -- Igor
I'd cast a vote for drywall taper. I know it's not woodworking, but
it's definately a skill in a carpenter's toolbag, and is generally
mush less dangerous than (for instance) operating a table saw. It can
also be very satisfying work. Some of the ceiling work might be a
little dangerous for someone with epilepsy, but I'm sure there are
ways for a motivated individual to find a good workaround for these
situations (IE, a taping knife with a long handle or scaffolding
instead of stilts)
Electronic brakes and kill-switches rigged to a safety line- so that
they are tripped if he falls over. Still a good chance for injury,
but not as bad as letting the tool run while he's laying on it.
These days, I doubt anyone is *not* allowed to do anything they want,
with all the lawsuits that pop up once the word discrimination comes
into play. I don't know that it's necessarily a good idea, though.
There would doubtlessly be some work restrictions, and the job may end
up being a great disappointment if all he's allowed to do is carry
bundles of shingles around.
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