Autism is such a complex beast…just when I think I have a handle on it, something new happens. Ryan has been exhibiting an unusual behavior for the past 4 months or so. Suddenly his arms will become rigid and bend at 90 degree angles, hands pointed up, with fingers splayed and his hands will shake and tremble for 3 to 5 seconds. It sure doesn’t look voluntary, so I became worried he was having seizures.
You might think I’m a hysterical mother, but autism and epilepsy exist co-morbidly more often than you’d think. A study just released by Boston Children’s Hospital says 40% of children with autism also have epilepsy. I’ve also read where many other children with autism have what are known as sub-clinical seizures. During these seizures, the brain will exhibit abnormal activity, but it may not be overtly noticeable to an observer that the child is seizing.
The only way to be certain sub-clinical seizures are occurring is through an EEG, but signs they are occurring can include regression in behavior and learned skills, behavior deterioration and possibly aggression, temper tantrums and self-injurious behaviors—all things parents have observed in their autistic children. Dr. James Adams, a researcher from Arizona State University estimates 35 – 40% of autistic children suffer from sub-clinical seizures.
So if the Boston study and Dr. Adams are correct, this means 75 – 80% of autistic children suffer from seizures—either full-on epileptic, or sub-clinical. I don’t know about you, but to me that is mind-boggling.
Ryan saw his autism doctor yesterday and he told me it is unlikely these tremors are seizures. The doctor said he’s seen this in many autistic children and it occurs because of problems in the brain. My first thought, was, “Phew!”, but then realized I still don’t know what causes this other than his brain is not properly regulated—and that doesn’t sound good.
If anyone is familiar with what Ryan is experiencing, would appreciate knowing what it is and what it isn’t. I’d like to check one thing off my list of “Stuff to Worry About”…