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Living with Autism


February 25, 2012

Neuropsychiatry for Autism?

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“Epilepsy is more common in individuals with autism than in the general population,” says a 2009 Institute of Clinical Sciences and Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology report...“study of young adults with autism showed high rates of epilepsy… A diagnosis of AUTISM in children with intractable epilepsy remained after surgical intervention.”

“One must be aware that AD, Asperger syndrome and autistic-like conditions are behaviorally defined diagnoses, in contrast to…eg infantile spasms, Landau Kleffner syndrome or the syndrome of continuous spike-and-wave during sleep. These diagnoses are based on specific EEG findings together with clinical symptoms and signs and affect both previously healthy children and children with neurodevelopmental disorders. Acquired functional deficits, including cognitive and/or language regression, seen in these children are potentially reversible [cured] and treatable as they are presumed to be caused by epileptiform activity.”

“In a retrospective follow-up study on a clinical series of
130 individuals 18-35 years old diagnosed with autism in childhood and without a known associated medical condition epilepsy was found in 25% (Hara 2007).”

Parents of autistic children and adults spend many years and hundreds of hours floating between primary care physicians, gastroenterologists, geneticists, psychiatrists and neurologists. I’m finally down to three. It would be great to narrow the medical maze to TWO doctors. This may sound like it’s no big deal, but it is when you spend half your life traveling for an hour in a car, sitting for another hour in an office and waiting 45 minutes in an exam room with a severely- autistic son. By the end, I often feel like making myself an appointment with several psychiatrists. Or at least picking up some dark chocolate and a bottle of Pinot Noir on the way home.

Study by Olsson et al. (1988), three quarters of all children with autism and epilepsy had partial seizures only or in combination with other seizure types, as did three quarters of adults with active epilepsy”

Finally, the report noted it hopes information provided will “increase awareness of individuals with both epilepsy and autism, so that optimal support and interventions can be provided and planned for through the collaboration between psychiatry and neurology”.

So, we must ask: Why are autistics with epilepsy and behavioral issues constantly bounced back and forth between psychiatry and neurology? Interestingly, there is growing support for the rapprochement of neurology and psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry becoming a specific branch of medicine that could better medically manage moderate to severely autistic patients.

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