Epilepsy is a common condition which affects functioning in the brain causing an electrical impulse disturbance. These electrical impulse disturbances can scramble thoughts, movements, perception and coordination.
Approximately 30% of people with ASD develop epilepsy. Children with a severe intellectual disability are most likely to have seizures. Seizures most often develop during early childhood, with puberty being the next peak onset time, however onset can occur at any age.
Signs of epilepsy
Sometimes seizures are noticeable but many types of seizures can occur without obvious physical signs. Possible signs of seizure activity include:
• Behavioural problems, such as aggression or self-injury,
• Losing some behavioural or cognitive milestones,
• Making little or no academic gains, after previously doing well in pre-teen years.
• Disturbed sleep/extreme tiredness – sometimes seizures can be experienced whilst asleep without knowing
More obvious signs
• Stiffness then jerky movements, frothing at the mouth , turning blue and unconsciousness
• Moments of staring into space , eye rolling or fluttering eyelids
• Noticing strange smells, a strange taste in the mouth or seeing things that aren’t there
• Jerky uncontrolled limb movements
How is epilepsy diagnosed?
Epilepsy is diagnosed by a variety of tests the most common being the EEG which records the brain’s electrical activity or an MRI which takes pictures of the brain. If you suspect a child with autism has epilepsy it is important to speak to their GP or paediatrician for a referral to a neurologist for testing and treatment.
How is epilepsy treated?
Epilepsy is commonly treated with medication called Antiepileptic’s. Medication must be taken every day for it to be effective, some people may need more than one dose per day. Once medication has been prescribed for epilepsy it is very important that it is well monitored by the person’s GP, Paediatrician or Neurologist through regular visits and blood tests.
How does epilepsy impact daily living?
The impact of epilepsy on daily living can vary from one individual to another.
Once epilepsy is diagnosed and treated effectively with medication an individual may not experience seizure activity very often (one or two episodes per year)
If a person has severe epilepsy which is not controlled well they may experience seizure activity on a daily basis which can be very disruptive to their lifestyle.
People with uncontrolled epilepsy should be careful when swimming, bathing or showering and may have restrictions placed on them relating to driving due to safety concerns.