The epilepsies of childhood are distinguished by an interesting dichotomy between the benign and catastrophic disorders. Approximately 50% of children outgrow childhood epilepsy as they mature; although the disorder is disruptive for children and families alike, it is not considered a medical disaster. The catastrophic epilepsies of childhood, in contrast, are associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Infantile spasms, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, and the progressive myoclonic epilepsies are correlated with significant disability and a multiplicity of underlying etiologies. Accurate diagnosis of both the syndrome and the etiology is very important for treatment purposes, as well as for family education, since many of the disorders have a significant genetic component.