The Autism Society Philippines (ASP) is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the well-being of persons with autism spectrum disorder. The ASP has been in the forefront of providing services and training to families living with autism.

14 June 2011

Seizing seizures in autism

By DANG U. KOE, ASP Chair Emeritus


If it were not for my husband who had hospital working experience as a college student, I would not have immediately noticed it.


Our son with autism was 11 years old. He was staring sideways with his eyeballs fixed on the upper left corner of his eyes. We started calling his name and getting his attention, but he kept on staring at his left.


Sensing something was wrong with him, we rushed him to the hospital. On our almost half-an-hour ride, he would go back to staring after short distractions. I raised his right arm; it remained suspended in air until I moved it down.


Listening to Dr. Madeleine M. Sosa during her presentation on “Seizing Seizures (among persons with autism)”during the recent 11th National Conference of Autism Society Philippines, what happened to my son can probably be classified as simple partial seizure.


Dr. Sosa is the president of Child Neurology Society, Philippines (CNSP). While developmental pediatricians deal with children with developmental disorders such as autism, pediatric neurologists attend to underlying or co-morbid conditions of developmental disorders - such as seizures, epilepsy, muscle problems or a neurometabolic condition.


EPILEPSY AND SEIZURES NOT THE SAME

Angel Talker and mother-blogger Pinky Cuaycong wrote: “A seizure is an abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Laymen often call seizures convulsions or epilepsy, but suffice to say that while we are free to use these terms interchangeably, they do NOT mean the same thing.


We cannot see with our naked eyes what happens to the brain while a person has a seizure, but the physical signs are almost universal. To make matters a little more confusing, there are also subclinical seizures, or those whose symptoms cannot be detected through simple observation.


Typically, however, a person who has a seizure may have all or some of the following: changes in consciousness, vision, sensation, and/or emotions, loss of muscle control (falling is an example), and uncontrollable muscle movements (twitching, shaking, and/or rigidity).


The causes of seizures are varied and many. Some are idiopathic, meaning they occur without an identifiable cause. Some are caused by tumors, exposure to drugs, traumatic brain injuries, or infections.


In short, almost anything that injures the brain can cause a seizure.”


In her presentation, Dr. Sosa cited different studies showing that roughly a third of individuals with autism have a seizure disorder.


Moreover, it is said that about 25 percent of these individuals begin to have seizures during puberty. There are also studies pointing to higher rates of seizures among “low-functioning” persons with autism.


FIND THE UNDERLYING CAUSE

While hospital staff were attending to my son Gio four years ago, during what could be a “seizure attack”, I started crying. Will my son’s autism regress further?


I scrutinized him as he moved slowly from a wheelchair to his hospital bed. Images of another boy with autism and epilepsy haunted me – slow awkward motor movements, head leaning on one side, mouth open, blank stare… all the time. I thought before nothing could be more painful than being handed down a diagnosis of autism for my son. The thought of Gio not biking, not swimming, not laughing, not smiling, … that is like taking the lights out of my cheerful boy, albeit with autism.


Dr. Sosa advised her audience to treat the underlying cause of seizure in order to have good seizure control and thus improve the quality of life of the person affected. With other pediatric neurologists like her, CNSP promotes and provides access to quality neurological healthcare for Filipino children.


CNSP conductS teaching and training seminars to the physicians as a way to improve the level of child neurology practice. In partnership with organizations like Autism Society Philippines, CNSP Caravans already reached Naga, Dagupan, Samar and Lucena. Doctors, parents, rural health physicians, midwives and nurses are the target audience in each identified locality. The thrust of the caravan project is to teach the participants in identifying neurodevelopmental disability in children and then providing basic developmental intervention techniques to the community.


CNSP also has compiled a booklet- “Learning Modules in Child Neurology” which includes basic information on how to manage autism, seizures, brain infections, headache, cerebral palsy, ADADHD and trauma. This booklet will serve as a reference guide for the lay and other health workers in recognizing common neurological problems seen in the community.


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Acknowldgement: Manila Bulletin, Seizing seizures in autism

The article first came out on November 2009

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