Autism, Puberty, and the Possibility
of Seizures - Written by Stephen M. Edelson, Ph.D. Center for
the Study of Autism, Salem, Oregon
About one in four autistic individuals begin to have seizures during
puberty. The exact reason for the onset of seizures is not known,
but it is likely that the seizure activity may be due to hormonal
changes in the body. Sometimes these seizures are noticeable, (i.e.,
associated with convulsions); but for many, they are small, subclinical
seizures, and are typically not detected by simple observation.
Some possible signs of subclinical seizure activity include:
· exhibiting behavior problems, such as aggression, self-injury,
and severe tantrumming;
· making little or no academic gains after doing well during
childhood and pre-teen years;
· and/or losing some behavioral and/or cognitive gains.
Personally, I have known a few autistic individuals who were considered
high-functioning prior to puberty. During puberty, they experienced
seizures which were not treated. By their late teens, they were considered,
however, as low functioning. Some parents have an EEG performed to
see if their child shows any seizure activity. However, even if the
EEG does not detect abnormal activity during the testing period, one
cannot conclude that the person does not have seizures. To increase
the likelihood of detection, some individuals are assessed with an
EEG for 24 to 48 hours.
Interestingly, vitamin B6 with magnesium
as well as dimethylglycine (DMG) are known to reduce or eliminate
seizure activity in some individuals, even in cases where seizure
drugs are ineffective.
Note that the majority of autistic individuals do not have seizures
during puberty. In fact, many parents have told me that their son/daughter
actually experienced a dramatic developmental leap forward during
Parents of autistic children should be aware of the possible positive
and negative changes that can occur with puberty. Of particular importance
is the need for parents to be cognizant of the fact that about 25%
of autistic individuals may experience clinical or subclinical seizures
which, if left untreated, can lead to deleterious effects.