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Effective Seizure Treatments for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Published: 2011-05-25 (Revised/Updated 2013-06-04) : Author: Autism Research Institute
  • Synopsis: Roughly 25 to 35% of individuals with autism eventually develop seizures and many of the remainder have subclinical seizure-like brain activity.

New Research Study on Most Effective Seizure Treatments for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Roughly 25 to 35% of individuals with autism eventually develop seizures and many of the remainder have subclinical seizure-like brain activity. However, little is known about which traditional epilepsy treatments and commonly used non-traditional alternative treatments are effective for treating seizures or epilepsy in children and adults with autism spectrum disorder.

A study just published in BMC Pediatrics by Dr. Richard E. Frye from the University of Texas in Houston and Dr. James B. Adams from the Arizona State University in Tempe has now provided insight into which traditional and non-traditional medical treatments are most beneficial for individuals with autism spectrum disorder and seizures. These researchers surveyed 733 parents of children with autism spectrum disorder and seizures, epilepsy and/or subclinical seizure-like brain activity to rate the effectiveness of 25 traditional and 20 non-traditional medical treatments on seizures. The survey also assessed the effect of those treatments on other symptoms (sleep, communication, behavior, attention and mood)and side effects.

Overall, anti-epileptic drugs were reported by parents to improve seizures but worsened other symptoms. Overall, non-antiepileptic drugs were perceived to improve other symptoms but did not improve seizures to the same extent as the anti-epileptic drugs. Four anti-epileptic drugs, valproic acid, lamotrigine, levetiracetam and ethosuximide, were reported to improve seizures the most and, on average, have little positive or negative effect on other symptoms. Certain traditional non-anti-epileptic drug treatments, particularly the ketogenic diet, were perceived to improve both seizures and other symptoms.

"The information gained from this study will help physicians more effectively manage children with autism spectrum disorder and seizures," says Dr Frye.

Prof. Adams states that, "This study suggests that several non-traditional treatments, such as special diets (ketogenic, Atkins, and gluten-free, casein-free), are worth further investigation as adjunctive treatments for treating seizures."

The full study is published in BMC pediatrics, and is now available at

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