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How Does Epilepsy Affect Autism?

Learn how epilepsy affects autism from Steve Wolf, MD and Patty McGoldrick, NP in this Howcast video.


Autism is being more frequently diagnosed in our society, and epilepsy can be seen in up to 25 to 30 percent of children with autism, so it's an important thing to diagnose. There are some cases that we feel the epilepsy can be affecting the autism in the child's development. There are certain children that have abnormalities on their EEG that have not necessarily presented with seizures, but those abnormalities can be affecting speech and behavior. Also, a lot of children with autism do not present with seizures until they are hitting adolescence, and then when they are 13 or 14 they have their first seizure. So when we hear a story of a child who used to speak, suddenly loses language, we always get ourselves concerned about epilepsy. There's a syndrome called Landau-Kleffner Syndrome where these epileptic discharges prevent language from developing in the child. And that's because the epileptic discharges are over the language area of the brain. So that's a child that warrants more invasive monitoring and a video EEG to see if they're spiking in sleep that can be affecting language. So the best way to make the detection of whether there are seizures going on is in a child who is autistic is doing a 24 hour video EEG, looking at their brain waves at night, and then making the diagnosis. Hopefully, once the doctors and neurologists figure out if this is epilepsy or not treatment is indicated in these children. So in kids with autism, take a further look and see if there could be epilepsy going on.

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