Seizures are something we associate with Epilepsy. — a brian disorder in which multiple, unexpected seizures are triggered. Seizures are also a very common symptom of Pervasive Development Disorders (PDD) including Autism.
The Basics – What Is a Seizure?
Seizures themselves are highly studied. Seizures occur when there is abnormal electrical activity in the brain. There are times in which the brain’s neurons all fire simultaneously, and this is what causes a seizure to occur. The majority of people think of a seizure as the violent convulsing, unconscious episode that people have. This is true – some seizures, known as tonic clonic seizures are characterized by uncontrollable and violent shaking. This is because both sides of the brain are affected. However, a partial seizure – only affecting part of the brain – can be as mild as losing awareness for a brief amount of time. The recurrence of seizures is known as Epilepsy, however, seizures can occur in people who do not have epilepsy as well.
Because seizures have so many symptoms, and can sometimes affect different parts of the body, they are classified into motor, sensory, autonomic, emotional, or cognitive.
Why Seizures Occur in PDD and Autism Cases
It has been found that one in four children with a PDD will develop seizures. Most recent studies conclude that 1/3 of Autistic children will also develop epilepsy. Though it was heavily documented in the 1960′s when the connection between Autism and Seizures was studied, researches even today are working hard to establish links between seizures and Autism.
Another interesting study is that the chances of developing seizures range based upon which subcategory of PDD that the person has. The present studies suggest that people with classical Autism have a 30% risk of having seizures, while those with Asperger Syndrome have less than a 10% risk. Those with Disintegrative Disorder or Rett Syndrome have over 75% chance of developing seizures. What this shows us is that there are risk factors – specifically in Autism – that determine the risk of a person who has PDD developing seizures.
The major risk factors for a child with Autism developing seizures is the level of cognitive impairment and motor deficits. The more common symptoms of Autism – clumsiness, fine motor coordination, aren’t as severe as paralysis on one side or forms of cerebral palsy. The more severe the cognitive impairment, in some cases, the greater the risk for developing seizures. In a child with Autism, who has normal intelligence and no other apparent mental condition or family history of seizures, the chance of them developing seizures is less than 10%. However, if the Autistic child has mental retardation or severe motor deficit, the risk rises to 50%
Sometimes, seizures give a signal of their onset. Some sufferers report a strange taste in their mouths, sudden body temperature change, etc. Sometimes, they are unexpected. Typically, seizures can be controlled with medication. It’s very important that the type of seizure, whether or not its epilepsy, and the underlying cause of the seizures is studied as to provide the appropriate medication.