Epilepsy and Autism: What You Need To Know

Studies show that epilepsy are more common in individuals with autism than the general population. Studies show that in some cases, 20% of people diagnosed with autism also have an epilepsy disorder. Other studies indicate epilepsy prevalence estimates between 5% to 46%.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts social, speech, behavioral and motor skills. It is a spectrum disorder meaning it varies from person to person. No two people have the same symptoms. It is estimated that 1% of the population is diagnosed with autism.

Epilepsy is a brain disorder which occurs when neurons in the brain experience a brief interruption causing a seizure to occur. Seizures vary from mild to severe and affects over 3 million Americans. There are different types of seizures:

  • Generalized Tonic/Clonic- A seizures where the whole brain is affected.
  • Absence Seizures- Generally start without any warnings. It affects children and last only for a few seconds.
  • Myoclonic Seizures- Are abrupt jerks of the muscle groups which originate from the spine.
  • Partial Seizures- The person may look as though he or she is in a trance.

There are many unanswered questions as to why epilepsy is more common in people with autism. There is some evidence the common underlying cause may be both are related to genetic and environmental causes and are both related to some type of brain disorder. Evidence does shoe however individuals with autism and epilepsy have worse behavioral and social outcomes than individuals diagnosed with autism only including issues with motor and daily living skills.

Signs for parents to look out for
  • May be difficult to determine especially in children diagnosed with severe autism spectrum disorder. Red flags include, staring episodes, stiffening of the body and shaking movements.
  • A medical evaluation will include brain imaging and an electroencephalogram (EEG).
Teaching Strategies

If you are an educator, be aware that after a seizure, the student will become tired. Allow the student an opportunity to rest.

Reference

Epilepsy Foundation

Medical News Today: Epilepsy and autism: Is there a link?

Neurologist Disorder Treatment. Epilepsy in patients with autism: Links, risks and treatment challenges. Frank McBesag- Published online 2017 Dec 18

Synapse- Autistic Spectrum Disorder Factsheet

 

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Spina Bifida- Facts and Statistics

October is Spina Bifida Awareness Month. Spina Bifida is a birth defect that affects the spine and the spinal cord. The membranes surrounding the spinal cord do not close properly.

Facts and Statistics
  • Each year, about 1,500 babies are born with spina bifida.
  • There is no known cause
  • Accumulation of fluid in the brain affects 70% of children.
  • 40% of shunts fail or become in affected and need to be changed within a year.
  • It can happen anywhere along the spine if the neural tube does not close all the way.
  • Spina Bifida might cause physical and intellectual disabilities that range from mild to severe depending on the size and location of the opening in the spine.
  • Myelomeningocele is the most serious type of spina bifida.
  • Spina Bifida can be diagnosed during pregnancy or after the baby is born.
  • Some people with Spina Bifida may never experience symptoms
  • Spina Bifida occurs between the 3rd and 4th week of pregnancy.
  • Children with Spina Bifida may have difficulty with math, reading comprehension and learning.
  • Common challenges to learning include, fine and gross motor skills, spatial orientation, communication difficulties and attention and memory.
  • Some children with Spina Bifida also have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Hispanic women have the highest rate of having a child affected by spina bifida, when compared with non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black women. Data from 12 state-based birth defects tracking programs from 1997-2007 were used to estimate the total number of pregnancies affected by spina bifida compared to the total number of live births (also called the prevalence of spina bifida) for each racial/ethnic group:
    • Hispanic: 3.80 per 10,000 live births
    • Non-Hispanic black or African-American: 2.73 per 10,000 live births
    • Non-Hispanic white: 3.09 per 10,000 live births
Resources

March of Dimes
1275 Mamaroneck Avenue
White Plains, NY 10605
askus@marchofdimes.com
http://www.marchofdimes.com
Tel: 914-997-4488; 888-MODIMES (663-4637)
Fax: 914-428-8203

Spina Bifida Association
4590 MacArthur Blvd. NW
Suite 250
Washington, DC 20007-4266
sbaa@sbaa.org
http://www.spinabifidaassociation.org
Tel: 202-944-3285; 800-621-3141
Fax: 202-944-3295

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia 

Epilepsy Facts

Epilepsy is a disorder of the central nervous system often caused by abnormal electrical discharges that develop into seizures. The following are additional facts on epilepsy and seizures:

30-epilepsy-facts

  • More people live with epilepsy than autism, spectrum disorders, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy combined.
  • You can’t swallow your tongue during a seizure. It is physically impossible.
  • You should never force something into the mouth of someone having a seizure.
  • Don’t restrain someone having a seizure.
  • Epilepsy is not contagious .
  • Anyone can develop epilepsy.
  • Epilepsy is not rare.
  • 1 in 26 Americans will develop epilepsy in their lifetime.4An estimated 3 million Americans and 65 million people worldwide live with epilepsy.
  • In 2/3 of patients diagnosed with epilepsy, the cause is unknown.
  • Up to 50,000 deaths occur annually in the U.S. from status epilepticus (prolonged seizures). (SUDEP) and other seizure-related causes such as drowning and other accidents.
  • SUDEP accounts for 34% of all sudden deaths in children.
  • Epilepsy costs the U.S. approximately 15.5 billion each year.
  • A seizure is a transient disruption of brain function due to abnormal and excessive electrical discharges in brain cells.
  • Epilepsy is a disease of the brain that predisposes a person to excessive electrical discharges in the brain cell.
  • It is diagnosed when 2 or more unprovoked seizures have occurred.
  • It must be at least 2 unprovoked seizures more than 24 hours apart.
  • About 14% have simple partial seizures.
  • 36% have complex partial seizures.
  • 5% have tonic-clonic seizures.
  • Seizures can be caused by head trauma, stokes, brain tumor and a brain infection.
  • Causes are unknown in 60 to 70% of cases.
  • The prevalence is 1% of the U.S. population.
  • Approximately 2.2 to 3 million in the U.S. have seizures.
  • It affects all ages, socioeconomic and racial groups.
  • Incidents are higher in children and older adults.
  • Seizures can range from momentarily blanks to loss of awareness
  • Almost 150,000 people in the U.S. develop epilepsy every year.
  • No gender is likely to develop than others.
  • 1/3 of individuals with autism spectrum disorders also have epilepsy.
  • The prevalence of epilepsy in people with an intellectual disability is higher than the general population.