One study conducted in 2016 found that autistic people who had seizures were more likely to also have epilepsy. Some research has shown a possible link between autism and epileptic seizures, which may help explain the varied symptoms experienced by autistic individuals with epilepsy.
The “what causes epilepsy” is a question that is asked often. There are many different types of treatments for epileptic seizures in autistic people.
Autism isn’t an illness that isolates people. Autism often coexists with a range of other health issues. One of them is epilepsy.
Researchers aren’t clear why autism and epilepsy often coexist. They are, however, clear that the two illnesses are linked, and that they affect both adults and children.
Whether you’re an adult or a youngster, the treatment for epilepsy is the same. After the second seizure, doctors may prescribe medications, and if they don’t work, they may recommend more drastic measures, such as surgery.
Don’t be concerned if you’ve been diagnosed with both autism and epilepsy. You are not alone, and there are several services available to assist you. At the conclusion of this piece, we’ll link you with some of those resources.
How Does Epilepsy Appear?
When we think about epilepsy, we usually picture someone shivering on the ground while having a seizure. While some persons with epilepsy have massive seizures like this, the majority do not.
The Epilepsy Foundation lists the following as markers of seizures in persons with autism:
- Staring. Without blinking, the individual may stare into the distance for lengthy periods of time. When I say the person’s name, I get no answer.
- Stiffening. For a brief period, the person’s whole body becomes stiff, and you may notice a lack of blinking or swallowing.
- Shaking or twitching are both examples of twitching. You could see all of the muscles twitch, or you might notice just one or two body parts twitch.
Families may find it difficult to distinguish between autism-related and epilepsy-related behavior. As a self-soothing strategy, someone can jiggle their foot or pulse muscles. Questions concerning motive go unanswered if the individual is nonverbal.
Autism & Epilepsy Are Common
Epilepsy is a common occurrence in persons with autism. Researchers have looked into the link and found that many individuals suffer both illnesses at the same time.
Epilepsy was expected to affect 12.5 percent of the population in 2013. Epilepsy affects roughly 10% of persons with autism, according to study published in 2019.
These two research used different approaches, yet they both arrived to the same conclusion. The findings imply that epilepsy is a way of life for many persons with autism.
Some speculate that the bond is becoming stronger with time. In the 1960s, for example, researchers discovered a weaker relationship between the two disorders. Experts clarify, however, that autism rules have eased over time, implying that more individuals are being diagnosed today than in the past. They believe that as the number of persons with autism grows, the incidence of epilepsy will increase.
Epilepsy is diagnosed in a variety of ways.
Doctors don’t diagnose autism based on what they see in their clinics. Instead, they perform a battery of tests to figure out what’s going on within the brain cells of a patient. Whether done on adults or children, these tests are the same.
Doctors may use the following terms:
- EEGs. The electrical activity of the brain is measured in these examinations. They may be carried out in a number of ways. Some individuals go to the hospital for testing, while others wear monitors at home. Some people need testing while awake, while others require testing while asleep.
- MRIs. These tests are used to identify abnormal brain activity.
- Genetic testing is a method of determining a person’ Autism risk is linked to genetic mutations, and some physicians may use them to assess whether or not the disorder occurs.
- Interviews. Before a seizure, some individuals notice strange sights, odors, or noises. As physicians develop a diagnosis, this information is crucial.
It’s frightening to see a seizure. The episodes are typically rather terrifying for those who have to go through them. However, experiencing one is insufficient for physicians to take action. Doctors often prefer their patients to have two before intervening, according to specialists. That way, they aren’t addressing problems that may or may not go away on their own.
Treatment Alternatives include:
- Medications. Drugs may help to calm electrical activity in the brain and prevent seizures. Experts believe that the majority of these medications have adverse effects and that their effectiveness varies from person to person. You may need to try a few different ones before you discover one that works for you and has manageable side effects.
- Dietary adjustments are made. In certain people, a ketogenic diet, which emphasizes fats over proteins or carbs, may help reduce seizures. Experts estimate that around a third of youngsters who follow this diet will no longer have seizures.
- Stimulation of the nerves. Doctors use a pacemaker-like device attached to the brain to pulse electricity. Seizures should cease if the gadget continues to operate.
- Surgery. Seizures usually come from the same part of the brain. Seizures may sometimes be stopped by removing that region of the brain.
Each seizure causes harm to the brain’s fragile cells. When they arise, it’s vital to act quickly. You can’t prevent epilepsy from developing, but you can assist to prevent it from worsening over time.
Special Recommendations for Epileptic Children
In general, adults and children get the same therapy for autism and epilepsy. There are, however, a few tiny exceptions.
Some youngsters, for example, outgrow their epilepsy and no longer need medication as they become older. Parents should never stop giving their children medicine without first seeing a doctor, according to experts. Even if you don’t see any issues, they might be hiding under the surface.
Your kid should see their doctor for a medication checkup once a year. As your kid grows older, he or she may need a greater or lower medicine dosage. Adults may not need as many visits as children, but they do.
How Can Families Help?
While doctors are in charge of treating epilepsy, there are important things that families can do to assist.
Consider the following options:
- Enrolling in a first-aid training program. During a seizure, people may trip, fall, or slide. They may need assistance in bandaging wounds and scratches. To prevent choking, you may need to assist them in getting into a recovery posture if the seizure lasts for a long period. These abilities may be learned in a first-aid course. It seems to be an useful step in the management of epilepsy for certain families.
- Improved communication. Ascertain that the autistic person understands how to alert you to an oncoming seizure. Some people can communicate with their words, while others may need the assistance of picture books or other assistive technologies. Their warnings might assist you in planning ahead of time so that you can keep them safe.
- Keeping others up to date Ascertain that your child’s epilepsy is known to their teachers, coaches, and other authority people. Adults may be more cautious, but if an incident occurs at work, it is vital that they get assistance from colleagues or managers. You can assist in the preparation of such tough discussions.
The more you understand about autism and epilepsy, the more equipped you will be to help the person you care about. Doctors, therapists, and other medical experts may be able to provide you with valuable guidance. Request written resources that you may study at home, as well as autism-specific items that you can share with the individual you care about.
As you explore for assistance and tools, national and local resources may be useful. Consider contacting the following resources:
- Connect with parent support groups, adult or adolescent support groups, or children’s programs via the Epilepsy Foundation.
- The Autism Society of America (ASCA): Make contact with chapters in your state. Some sessions are dedicated to epilepsy, while others are solely focused on autistic problems.
- Your neighborhood hospital is: Issue-specific support groups are offered at several community hospitals. There’s usually no cost to join, and you could get a useful toolbox as a result. For additional information, contact a hospital near you.
If you’re having trouble finding the help you need, talk to your therapist. Many mental health experts have strong ties to the support community and can help you find the resources that are perfect for you right now.
Is There a Link Between Epilepsy and Autism? (March of this year). The Epilepsy Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people with
The Epilepsy-Autism Connection is Expounded (October 2019). Spectrum.
Epilepsy in Autism Patients: Causes, Risks, and Treatment Obstacles (2018). Treatment of Neuropsychiatric Disorders
Why are people with autism at risk of developing epilepsy? (As of December 2016) Autism Interactive Network (Autism Interactive Network).
Autism and Epilepsy (July 2017). The National Autistic Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of
Epilepsy Treatment Alternatives. (July 2017). American Family Physician.
Autism Spectrum Disorder Seizures (2012, December) In Action: The Autism Community
Resources for people with autism and epilepsy. Autism Speaks Canada is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about autism
Ketogenic Diet Clinic is a clinic that specializes on the ketogenic diet. Pittsburg’s UPMC Children’s Hospital.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Epilepsy in Children (In January of 2020) The American Academy of Family Physicians is a group of doctors that specialize in family medicine.
Treating Epilepsy in Children. Epilepsy Action is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people with epi
I’m now ready to discuss my autistic son’s epilepsy. (February of this year). Autism Speaks is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about
There’s a link between autism and epilepsy that scientists may have discovered. (April of this year). Science is on the rise.
“Can epilepsy be cured?” is a question that many autistic people are asking. There are many treatment methods for epilepsy, but the only way to know if they will work is by trying them out. Reference: can epilepsy be cured.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the main cause of epilepsy?
A: There are many possible causes of epilepsy. However, one cause is an electrical disturbance in the brain that disrupts communication between neurons and leads to seizures.
What does epilepsy do to a person?
A: Some of the side effects for people with epilepsy can include dizziness, nausea, fatigue and memory loss.
What are the warning signs of epilepsy?
A: Some of the warning signs for epilepsy are headaches, dizziness, unusual head pain and nausea. If a person experiences these symptoms they should get help from their doctor.
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Janice is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Special Education. She also holds a Master of Science in Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) from Queen’s University, Belfast. She has worked with and case managed children and youth with autism and other intellectual and/or developmental disabilities in home and residential setting since 2013.