Autism and Seizures: Are They Connected?

Autism SeizuresThere
has always been a strong association between autism and seizures.  In fact, it is estimated that 25% of those diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder will suffer at least one seizure
before the onset of puberty.  Additionally, according to the medical article entitled “Autism and epilepsy: Cause, consequence, comorbidity, or coincidence,” epilepsy will
be prevalent in 10%-30% of those who have been diagnosed with autism.

For some children with autism, seizures may first occur during an illness, and often manifest as a febrile seizure. 
Febrile seizures are not uncommon among children, even those without autism. 
However a complex febrile seizure is more of a cause for concern in children with autism and may (not always) indicate that epilepsy
is present.  A complex febrile seizure is defined as more than one seizure
occurring within a 24-hour period, during the same illness and/or a seizure lasting longer than 15 minutes.

One of the most notable cases of seizures and autism occurred with Jett
Travolta, the son of actor John Travolta and Kelly Preston.  While never
formally announced to the public, it had long been rumored that Jett had some
form of autism spectrum disorder, along with other medical conditions.  In
fact, it had been reported that Travolta admitted
his son’s condition in private
, but never to the public or media.

In 2009, while on a family vacation, Jett Travolta had a massive seizure,
hitting his head while in the bathroom. His death certificate officially listed "seizure" as the cause of
death, creating a heartbreaking situation for the Travolta family.

The co-existence of both epilepsy and autism can be devastating for parents. 
However, it is important to
keep in mind that epilepsy is a condition that can often be treated and controlled with the appropriate medication.  

If someone you’re with suffers a seizure, there are some important things to
keep in mind, which include:

  • Remove any nearby objects that will cause bodily injury
  • Protect the person’s head with a pillow, cushion, towel, or any other soft
  • Carefully and gently place the person on their side
  • Do not attempt to move the victim to another location
  • Do not put anything is the person’s mouth, including any water or fluids while
    the seizure is still occurring
  • Stay calm!  Witnessing a seizure can be extremely frightening
    and traumatic, especially when it happens to a loved one.

For more information on seizures and epilepsy, please visit