In a study presented at the American Epilepsy Society’s (AES) 65th Annual Meeting, children under five years old who were seen at an epilepsy monitoring unit and a ketogenic diet clinic were tracked for six months. Seventy-seven percent of the children screened positive for developmental delays. Of the 77 percent, 36 percent were diagnosed with autism.
“Systematic screening should be routine for all children seen in epilepsy clinics,” Anne Berg, PhD, from Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, told reporters at the AES annual meeting. “We are concerned that when pediatricians send patients to neurologists, they assume additional screening is taking place, but neurologists may think pediatricians are taking care of that, and a gap is occurring.”
Reporter Allison Shelley of Medscape Medical News writes that a team of nurses at Children’s Memorial Hospital is currently working to evaluate a more extensive battery of screening tools for new-onset patients. They typically refer patients to psychiatrists; occupational, speech, and physical therapists; or educational specialists.
Still, many questions about the link between epilepsy and autism remain unanswered. “We don’t know whether uncontrolled epilepsy may lead to autism, but both tend to feature intellectual disabilities,” Dr. Masanori Takeoka of Harvard Medical School said at the AES meeting,
According to Dr. Berg, “It’s important that screening be right there at the beginning to help improve cognitive development.”