Individuals with epilepsy are at increased risk of symptoms of the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), especially if the epilepsy appears in childhood. Among individuals with epilepsy in a recent study, 1.6% of them compared with 0.2% of controls were diagnosed with ASD. Individuals with epilepsy were therefore at increased risk of future ASD. Further, ASD is more common in the siblings and offspring of individuals who have epilepsy, suggesting a shared cause. The risk in the offspring was particularly high in mothers with epilepsy. Epilepsy was also associated with a prior diagnosis of ASD. 1
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder. The Autism spectrum is wide-ranging. It varies from severe to very high functioning behavior. The spectrum comprises Asperger’s syndrome—which is on the higher-functioning end of the autism spectrum―to childhood disintegrative disorder and the pervasive developmental disorder. Autism Spectrum Disorder affects the child’s development and learning. It is generally suspected by behavioral variances as compared with their peers around age three.
Symptoms of ASD include difficulty with social interaction, impaired verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors, such as rocking, pacing and repeating actions and words. The spectrum is characterized by hypersensitivity to external stimulations, such as noise and being touched. A common clue of this in young children can be folding down their ears in an attempt to block-out noises.
Some form of autism affects one out of every 68 kids and it affects more boys than girls. The number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder is rising, but it is not clear whether the increased frequency is due to better detection and reporting of the disorder or due to a real increase in the number of cases, or both.
1. Sundelin HEK, Larsson H, Lichtenstein P, et al. Autism and Epilepsy. Neurology 2016; 87:192-197.
Lance Fogan, M.D. is Clinical Professor of Neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “DINGS” is his first novel. It is a mother’s dramatic story that teaches epilepsy, now available in eBook, audiobook and soft cover editions.