- Bryan Middle
Overcoming an Obstacle
Rosie Sjolie likes to learn math and science in her first-grade classroom. She and her twin sister attend Columbian Elementary, where they excel in their own ways.
“They have different superpowers,” said their mother, Sarah Sjolie. “If they team up together, they're kind of unstoppable because they have some opposite superpowers and some complimentary things.”
At school, they’re in separate classes. They have different teachers and different learning styles.
“I think it's hard when you have a twin sister,” Sjolie said of her seven-year-old girls. “There are always just differences.”
One difference became apparent earlier this school year. That’s when a Columbian Elementary staff member noticed something unusual with Rosie. Kara Morin, an instructional facilitator, was helping in the library when Rosie approached to ask a question.
“When she was asking me the question, she just stopped talking and looked up. I thought she was thinking, and it took her a little while to continue,” said Morin. “When her teacher picked her up, I asked if she ever noticed it and that I think it’s something we should watch out for and talk to mom about.”
Molly Edick, Rosie’s first-grade teacher, noticed it too. She began tallying how many times a day it was happening in the classroom.
“Twenty a day,” said Edick. “It was very short clips of time where her eyes would roll back in her head, and she would pause. Then, she’d come back out and have no idea we’d been talking previously or what we had been talking about.”
Around the same time, Rosie’s mother reached out to Edick with concerns about reading challenges. She wanted to come up with a plan to tackle the issue together. Edick told Sarah about the behavior she’d seen from Rosie in the classroom. Sarah said they also noticed, thinking it was a tick.
Immediately, Sarah and her husband took Rosie to a pediatrician. While she was in the doctor’s office, Rosie presented with seizure-like symptoms. Within seven days, they had a diagnosis, and within nine, she was on a treatment plan.
“It’s called childhood epilepsy with absence seizures,” said Sarah. “It’s basically big explosions of electrical connections in your brain, which doesn’t make it easy to memorize or remember things or even have continuity of learning.”
Rosie knows she has seizures or “flickers,” as she sometimes calls them. Her mom referenced the movie Wreck-It Ralph when the character glitches inside the video games to explain what was happening to her in a way Rosie could understand.
Since receiving the diagnosis and treatment, Rosie has been seizure-free for five weeks. She and her family recently spent a night on the town to mark the milestone.
“I feel good now,” said Rosie. “To celebrate me having zero seizures, we went to dinner and then after we ate, we took a carriage ride with a horse named Junior!”
The Sjolies are thankful for the care their daughter received from Columbian Elementary’s staff. The attention they gave Rosie played an important role in discovering her epilepsy.
“It means everything to our family,” said Sarah. “Rosie has such a caring teacher in the classroom to help her along the journey. If you’re in an unsupportive environment, stress makes everything worse. So, to walk in and feel like you can be yourself is huge. Mrs. Edick does that.”