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Getting an EEG test, seizures, electrodes, social story at One Place for Special Needs

Getting an EEG test - social story

The process of attaching electrodes on the head for an EEG test can be scary for children. Show your child what to expect before your trip to the EEG clinic or hospital. Physicians, hospitals and research centers, knowing what to expect can alleviate the anxieties of many kids with disabilities, particularly those on the autism spectrum. Please feel free to use our social story.  Send us an email and let us know how this social story helped you! 



I have to get an EEG test. An EEG test helps doctors learn about what is going on inside my brain. I may take an EEG test at a special clinic or at the hospital.






The technician will bring out electrodes that will be placed on my head, EEG gel or paste, gauze and a liquid glue that will keep the electrode on my head.

electrodesEEG pasteEEG glue


EEG One Place for Special NeedsThe technician places a towel and the electrodes around my shoulders. The end of the electrode is just a flat piece of metal. The technician puts a paste on the end of the electrode so it will help stay on my head.





The technician dabs a little gel on my head with the swab. Then the technician gently presses the electrode onto my head. The technician will put a dab of glue on a piece of gauze and press it on top of the electrode. This glue has a strong smell. I may not like the smell of the glue but I will sit still for the technician. This glue will come off my head when the test is over.

EEG One Place for Special Needs          EEG One Place for Special Needs



The technician uses a small, thin blower to dry the glue. The blower is loud and it blows cool air on my head. This might feel different but it does not hurt me. The first electrode is on my head.

EEG One Place for Special Needs          EEG One Place for Special Needs



The technician places more electrodes on my head. I sit still and try not to move my head. I will have 16 to 24 electrodes placed on my head. I can talk to my mom or dad or think of some of my favorite things while I wait.

EEG One Place for Special Needs          EEG One Place for Special Needs



EEG One Place for Special NeedsThe electrodes have wires attached to them. I can feel them hang down my head. It feels different but does not hurt. The technician has to get very close to me to see what she is doing. The technician is very careful and will not hurt me.





EEG One Place for Special NeedsFinally, all the electrodes are on my head. The technician connects the electrodes to a small amplifier box. The amplifier listens to my brain. It can pick up little changes in my brain while I'm playing, relaxing and sleeping.






The technician puts the amplifier box on top of my head. She wraps the box up in gauze. Then the technician wraps the gauze around my head and under my chin to keep the electrodes and amplifier securely on my head.

EEG One Place for Special Needs          EEG One Place for Special Needs



EEG One Place for Special NeedsI'm almost done. It is important to stay still so the technician can do a good job. Next the technician will tape the gauze so it will not unravel. This might feel different but it does not hurt me.






I'm all done! Now I can move my head again. A wire attaches to a recorder I wear around my waist. When I go home the recorder may be plugged into a portable monitoring unit. It will tell the doctors what my brain is doing while I play and sleep. I will wear this all day and night.

When my parents say it's okay, they will help me take the gauze and electrodes off my head. Or I might go back to the technician who will take everything off.

EEG One Place for Special Needs          EEG One Place for Special Needs


Tips for parents

The process of putting on the electrodes can take 30 to 40 minutes. This is a long time for any child to sit still. The liquid glue smells like turpentine. The blower is very loud and is right by your child's ear. The technician is right up to your child's face while putting the electrodes on your child's head. This may be difficult for your child (and you!) but it is so important to rule out seizures which can be life threatening if left untreated.

While this was difficult for my own son, having a portable DVD player was extremely helpful to keep his mind off the procedure. Having ear bud headphones that won't impede the technician will be a big help because the blower is very loud. Older children may like listening to an MP3 player. Once at home, my son forgot he even had the big wrap on his head and was able to go about his day with relative ease.

If you are taking off the electrodes at home, a really short haircut prior to the test will be helpful. You will be given a solution to take the glue off your child's head the next day. Be liberal with that solution in order to remove the gauze and electrodes. Afterwards, a gentle shampoo wash should help get rid of most of the left over residue.

Do some pretend play several days before the EEG test. Practice wrapping up your child's head with something small placed on top of his head. Try a make-believe scenario that your child might like (e.g. wearing a football helmet, mummy, superhero). My son called this his "baby head" because his hair was hidden.

Please bring a copy of this social story to your technician. They want to make this procedure comfortable for kids and will appreciate having it available for other families.

Other resources

All about EEGs - What is an electroencephalogram, why it's done, what affects the test and more from Web MD

Digitrace EEG tour - Digitrace shows the entire process of the EEG test and instructions for parents

Hospital stay EEG test - Video shows a child playing and having fun while at a hospital stay EEG test. Good for kids to watch.

Dawn VillarrealAbout the writer

Dawn Villarreal runs One Place for Special Needs, a national disability resource that lets you find local and online resources, events and even other families in your neighborhood. She is also moderator of Autism Community Connection, a Yahoo group for families in Illinois. Dawn has two awesome kids and strives for a day when communities can effectively reach out to support all special needs. Reprint permission granted if you include: Reprinted with permission from One Place for Special Needs