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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Early Death in Those with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Published by: Psychology Today
Written by: Michael A. Ellis

Two recent studies will undoubtedly shock individuals and families affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These studies show a much earlier age of death in those with ASD as compared with the general population.

One study, published in the American Journal of Public Health in April 2017, finds the life expectancy in the United States of those with ASD to be 36 years old as compared to 72 years old for the general population.  They note that those with ASD are 40 times more likely to die from various injuries.  About 28 percent of those with ASD die of an injury.  Most of these are suffocation, asphyxiation, and drowning.  The risk of drowning peaks at about 5 to 7 years old.  As 50 percent of those with ASD wander, water safety and swim lessons are a must.  GPS trackers are also available for purchase should a child wander or get lost.  This makes finding the child or adult much easier and faster. Click here to read the rest of the story

Children and Ring Chromosome 20 Syndrome

What is Ring Chromosome 20 Syndrome?

Ring Chromosome 20 Syndrome is a chromosomal disorder that is the result of a ring that develops when a chromosome breaks in two places and the short arm of a chromosome has merged with the tip of the long arm.

This anomaly causes recurrent seizures during childhood. It is reported that the seizure can occur at anytime from during the day time to sleeping at night, it is very rare. In fact only 50 cases have been reported in research journals. However, this form of epilepsy can occur from birth to 17 years old.

What makes this rare form of seizures unique is that it does not respond to anti-epileptic medication. Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) tends to be successful as well as the Ketogenic diet in reducing the number of seizures.

Children diagnosed with Ring Chromosome 20 Syndrome typically experience several types of seizures including:

  • Focal seizure
  • Non-convulsive status epilepticus
  • Frontal lobe seizures
  • Tonic seizures
  • Generalized tonic-clonic seizures
Signs and Symptoms

Children with Ring Chromosome 20 Syndrome generally face challenges in the area of behavioral, learning disabilities and intellectual disabilities. In some instances, children may display physical characteristics including slow growth, short stature and a small size head.

Signs and Symptoms of Intellectual Disability
  • Decrease learning ability
  • Delays in crawling
  • Difficulty solving problems
  • Lack of curiosity
  • Language and speech delays
  • Poor motor skills
  • Short attention span
Teaching Strategies
  • Use short and simple sentences
  • Repeat directions
  • use strategies for remembering such as clustering information together
  • Provide immediate feedback
Signs and Symptoms of learning disabilities
  • Difficulty recognizing non-verbal cues such as facial expression
  • Fine motor skills difficulty
  • Weak visual discrimination abilities.
Teaching Strategies
  • Use a multi-sensory approach
  • Break into small steps
  • use probing techniques
  • use diagrams and pictures.
References

Genetics Home Reference

Rare Chromosome Organization

Wikipedia

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:

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  • 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.

Epilepsy- General Information

Epilepsy is a chronic disorder of the central nervous system. It is often characterized by seizures and is the fourth most common neurological disorder and affects people of all ages.

epilepsy ribbon

A person is considered to have epilepsy if they meet any of the following conditions:

  1. At least two unprovoked seizures occurring greater than 24 hours apart.
  2. One unprovoked seizure and after two unprovoked seizures occurring over the next 10 years.
  3. Diagnosis of an epilepsy syndrome.
Seizures

A seizure is caused by a burst of abnormal activity in the brain. With a seizure, a person has change in awareness, behavior, body movement or sensation. A seizure can last from a few seconds to a few minutes. Seizures can take on many different forms and affect people in different ways.

Auras

Auras are often describes as a warning before the occurrence of a seizure. Not everyone experiences an aura. Some have described it as a change in feeling, sensation, thought or behaviors. this may include:

  • An overpowering smell.
  • Nausea or indigestion.
  • A rising/sinking feeling in the stomach.
  • a sleepy/dreamy feeling.
Types of Seizures

Generalized Tonic Clonic Seizures. Involves the entire brain. May also be referred to as a grand mal seizure. This occurs when abnormal electrical activity affects all or most of the brain. often the body will stiffen and then the person will lose consciousness and then the body will shake due to uncontrollable muscle contractions.

Absence Seizure– A brief loss of consciousness or awareness. It generally last only seconds and mainly occurs in children. Signs may include a blank stare, lip smacking and repeated blinking, chewing or hand movement.

Focal Seizures– The burst of electrical activity is contain in one part of the brain. In a simple focal seizure, you may have muscular jerks or strange sensations in one arm or leg. The person does not lose consciousness or awareness.

Causes
  • brain trauma
  • genetics
  • stroke
  • tumors
  • brain infections
  • head injury.
Risk Factors
  • Babies who are born small for their age
  • Babies who have seizures in the first month of life
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Conditions with intellectual and developmental disabilities
  • Family history of epilepsy (febrile)
Triggering Factors
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Lack of sleep or tiredness
  • Skipping meals
  • Alcohol intake
  • Flickering lights
  • Fever
  • Caffeine
Diagnosis
Treatment

 

The following websites offer additional information on epilepsy including causes, symptoms, treatment, and diagnosis:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Epilepsy Foundation

Mayo Clinic

Medical News Today

Medlineplus

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke 

WebMD

Wikipedia

None of the information provided is meant to treat or diagnose any conditions. Not is it a substitute for medical, or psychological diagnosis and treatment.

What You Need To Know About Dravet Syndrome

Epilepsy is the 4th most common neurological disorder in the United States. With children, around 400,000 have epilepsy and most are able to control their seizures and lead normal lives. Dravet Syndrome is a rare form, of epilepsy found in children. Symptoms include, developmental delays, sleeping conditions, and chronic infections. Here are 20 facts you shoud know about Davet Syndrome.

20facts.dravet

  • Charlotte Dravet first described severe myoclonic epilepsy of infancy in France, 1978.
  • The name was later changed in 1989.
  • It is also called Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy (SMEI)
  • It is a rare genetic disorder affecting 1 in every 20,000-40,000 children
  • It appears during the first year of life.
  • Seizures are often fever-related.
  • It is rare to develop beyond the age of 5.
  • Children often experience poor development of language and motor skills
  • Is caused by defects in a gene in 79% of cases.
  • Affects 2-5% of children in North America
  • It is induced by prolonged exposure to warm weather
  • It is associated with sleep disorder including insomnia
  • Seizures are frequently resistant to treatment
  • There is a higher risk of Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP)
  • The onset of signs and symptoms is around 6 months around the time of the first vaccination.
  • Children typically outgrow seizures prior to adolescence.
  • Children diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome have a 85% chance of survival.
  • Development is typically normal.
  • Episodes may be frequent and prolonged
  • Certain seizure medications are likely to worsen the seizures such as Dilantin, Cerebyx and Tegretol.

Resources

Dravet Syndrome Foundation
P.O. Box 16536
West Haven, CT
Tel. 203-392-1950

Dravet Syndrome UK
P.O. Box 756
Chesterfield
5439EB
Tel. 07874 866937

Epilepsy Foundation- Provides online resources on information about epilepsy and seizures, locating assistance, advocacy and public awareness.

ICE Epilepsy Alliance– Provides resources on refractory patients (anti-epileptic drug therapy which is ineffective). Site includes information on advocacy, childhood epilepsy, and Dravet syndrome.

NINDS Dravet Syndrome Information Page– Medical information page on Dravet syndrome, diagnosis, treatment, research and organizations.

WebMD– Medical website providing information on diagnosis, signs and symptoms, and treatment.

37 Helpful Epilepsy Resources

epilepsy ribbon

November is Epilepsy Awareness Month!

Epilepsy Facts

  • It is the 3rd most common neurological disorder in the United States
  • 2.7 million Americans have epilepsy
  • 468,000 are children 0-17
  • 50 million people have epilepsy worldwide
  • 1 in 26 people have epilepsy in their lifetime
  • 200,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with epilepsy this year

The following links include information on symptoms, causes, complications, definition, types of seizures, and treatment:

Medical

Boston Children’s Hospital- Epilepsy Center
Cleveland Clinic-Epilepsy Center
e-medicine health
Everyday Health
FamilyDoctor.org
Healthline
Kids Health
Live Science
Mayo Clinic
Medline Plus
Neuroscience for Kids
WebMD
World Heath Organization (WHO)

Organizations and Foundations

 American Epilepsy Society

Promotes research and education for professionals dedicated to the prevention, treatment and cure of epilepsy.

 Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE)

Cure’s mission is to cure epilepsy, transforming and saving millions of lives. Also identifies and funds research.

 Dravet Syndrome Foundation

Raises funds for research and increase awareness and provides support to individuals and families.

 Epilepsy Canada

Mission is to enhance the quality of life for persons affected by epilepsy through promotion and support of research and facilitation of education and awareness.

Image result for epilepsy foundation Epilepsy Foundation

National Voluntary agency dedicated solely to the welfare of more than 2 million people with epilepsy in the United States and their families.

A charity funding research into epilepsy, provides information about the condition and therapies, and their activities.
 Hope for Hypothalamic Hamartomas

A volunteer-based organization. The goal is to create information about the diagnosis, treatment, and support of individuals with HH.

 Intractable Childhood Epilepsy Alliance

Dedicated to improving lives of children affected by intractable epilepsy through evidence-based information and advocacy.

 Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome Foundation

Non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome through research, programs and education.

  National Association of Epilepsy Centers

Strives to make high quality care available and affordable for epilepsy patients

Twitter -Keep up with the latest twitter feed or follow organizations that provide current information on epilepsy:

EPIC Long Island– Our very own non-profit organization of the month. Provides services for individuals with epilepsy and other disorders
Epilepsy Action– Leading member-led epilepsy charity providing information for people with epilepsy
Epilepsy Awareness– provides epilepsy training services to help raise standards and promote best practices.
My Epilepsy Team– Social network for people living with Epilepsy
Young Epilepsy– National charity working exclusively with children and young people in the UK

YouTube Video’s

Books on Epilepsy

Epilepsy: A patient and family guide

Epilepsy in Children: What every parent needs to know

Epilepsy 101: The ultimate guide for patients and families

Living well with epilepsy and other seizure disorders

Mommy, I feel funny! A child’s experience with epilepsy