#42 - Autism & Seizures

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What is the connection between autism and epilepsy? Does one cause the other or are other factors at play? Our expert guest, Dr. Roberto Tuchman, is the chief of the neurology department at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami, Florida. He has explored the autism/epilepsy connection for decades and is a highly sought after resource on the topic. 

In Episode #42, Dr. Tuchman shares what he is discovering regarding the autism and epilepsy connection and also speaks to us as a practitioner who has much experience guiding caregivers who have a loved one with autism and/or epilepsy. 

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Mentioned in This Episode

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  • Autism does not seem to cause seizures nor do seizures seem to cause autism. However, when intellectual disability is also part of the puzzle, having both autism and seizures jump from an 8% to 30% risk.
  • Children with infantile spasms have a 50% chance of developing autism.
  • Studies are finding common genes and circuitry in these disorders. 
  • With autism, it is common for the first seizure to be around age 5, or when entering adolescence, or in adulthood.
  • A common problem that can happen when a child is diagnosed early with seizures is a tendency to miss signs of other developmental delays because of the focus being only on the seizures. 
  • Not all seizures are large and dramatic. They can be easy to miss. Parents are typically very good at detecting changes in behavior that may indicate seizures. A neurologist can work with the parent to help determine if seizures are taking place. 
  • Some seizures can last 30-60 minutes and still cause no damage. However, it is recommended to call 911 for the first seizure or after 3 minutes. Patients with repeated seizures may be prescribed medicine from the neurologist to be administered after 3 minutes rather than call 911. 
  • Sudden death in epilepsy is a rare event. More common is death caused by accidents as a result of the seizure. The best prevention is the presence of other people.

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