A number of studies conducted in the past have found links between epilepsy and autism among the children of determination. Medical researchers are of the view that certain brain abnormalities linked with autism lead to seizures. So, in other words, there is a correlation between autism and seizures- however, which condition leads to the other is yet to be understood. Moreover, there are certain gene mutations or DNA alterations that might increase the probability of occurrence of both autism and epilepsy simultaneously.
Can autism and epilepsy co-occur?
A large study conducted in 2013 examining around 6,000 autistic children found that 12.5% of the sample size had epilepsy. Furthermore, the percentage increased to 26% for the children who were aged more than 13 years of age. Recently, a study of approximately 7,000 autistic children was carried out in 2019 discovering that about 10% of these children were diagnosed with epilepsy. However, the percentage number varies with different studies, ranging from about 2% to 46%. It does seem, though, that people who go through epilepsy are more likely to have autism than others; as a study in Sweden, consisting of more than 85,000 people, brought to light how autism was observed to be 10 times more likely to be common in individuals with epilepsy than the general population.
How do epilepsy and autism overlap?
There are theories suggesting that autism and epilepsy, both share some common biological mechanisms. Epilepsy involves over-excitation in the brain, which arises through too little inhibition. As per a study conducted in 2003, autism may occur from an imbalance between inhibition and excitation in the brain. Data is available to support this theory; however, many experts remain doubtful.
Does epilepsy lead to autism?
Children who go through severe epileptic seizures during their infancy, often called infantile spasms, have been observed to undergo damages to the brain. It should be noted that certain medical procedures used to treat epileptic seizures have often led to long-term improvements in cognition and social behavior of the individual.
Moreover, to examine the relationship between autism and seizures, researchers have been observing the health of newborn babies who are suffering from tuberous sclerosis, a rare genetic disease that is said to cause both, autism and epileptic seizures. It has been found that children till the age of one year old, who go through seizures, are more likely to suffer from a development delay. Hence, they are tested for autism till they turn 3, it being one of the symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Later researches have also been conducted to see whether or not the steps taken to prevent seizures at an early age improve development among children with tuberous sclerosis, and from a later autism diagnosis.
How to treat epilepsy in children with autism
Children with autism are treated for multiple issues, such as their social development and occupational skills. If an autistic child is suspected to have seizures, it is important for the parents to seek consultation from a neurologist or a therapist who would suggest ways for its treatment, as little research has been carried out on treatments that can cure both the conditions. Usually, medications are used to treat people with epilepsy, which minimizes the intensity and frequency of seizures. Albeit, there are cases where medication does not prove to be effective- for that, other options to mitigate the seizures are turned to.
Challenges for autistic children with epilepsy
Some children with epilepsy struggle with behavioral and socialization challenges than others. The awareness of the relationship between epilepsy and autism, though, helps provide better treatment plans to the children diagnosed with both conditions. Autism treatment in UAE, for instance, caters to the different personalities, characteristics and co-occuring conditions of autistic children. Hence, autistic children with epilepsy can benefit from a wide range of autism treatment services present in the UAE, designed to reduce the major challenges they may face. Considering the significance of such organizations, Small Steps Big Dreams in Dubai, UAE too has undertaken the supporting of children of determination who struggle with everyday activities.