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 object
  • 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

10 Responses to Autism and Seizures: Are They Connected?

  1. Leslie says: is website of mom with autistic son and epilepsy has. Lots of interesting information. Hope it helps.

  2. LIsa Howard says:

    My grandson was dig with autism this year. He vomits very often. He has had on 2 occ when he was very ill and his wbc were 32 thousand and 28 thousand. That we felt like he had seizure, the hospital always tell us that they do not believe it is seizures,We are going to get a EGD on next week, we have been to several Dr and when they finally detertimed that he had austim, they thought they had found the problem so they did not what to take it futher, until we insisted that they do.No one seem to much about austim or what causes it. Our insurance would not pay on any of his medical bills, even though MY SON AND DAUGHTER INLAW PAID THE PREMEIUMS EVERY MONTH!!!! He started preschool this year, and they are not euquipped in that area either.
    We just feel we are hitting brick wall at every turn.Just needed to vent.

  3. carol murden says:

    my 33year old son has downs syndrome/autism. he was prescribed circadin (melatonin) for sleep related reasons. he had his first dose 8pm friday 22 dec, less than 24 hours later he had a seizure is this just coincidence? or not.

  4. carol murden says:

    is there a connection between taking melatonin and seizures, especially someone with autism

  5. Jennifer Call says:

    My son was diagnosed with a very are form of Autism when he was 2 years old. He has been taking Melatonin for sleeping for as long as I can remember. He will be 17 next week. He started out with 1mg of Melatonin, and now takes 20mgs of Melatonin along with other meds that sometimes helps him sleep and sometimes doesn’t. He had his first seizure (a Grand Mal) in January 2012. He had his second seizure (a Grand Mal)in January 2013, his third seizure (a Grand Mal) in February,2013, his fourth (a Grand Mal) in March 2013. He was just diagnosed with a mild form of Epilepsy. The thing about the seizures is that they are all happenning around the same time of the month. I started increasing the doses of Melatonin to the maximum allowed, because he simply wasn’t going to sleep. I think I will delve a litle farther about this Melatonin and seizures connection, and see if I come up with anything.

  6. Kiley Carness says:

    I had my first seizure last Thursday, and the doctors didn’t know what caused it. My guess I was dehydrated or something. I have autism, and I’m afraid that I might have another one someday. Are there any ways I can do to prevent them?

  7. Marti Cly says:

    My 15 year old grandson with autism just started having seizures recently! We have given him melatonin in the past to help him sleep. We will stop that now! The doctor just recently started him on ativan and he never had seizures until. He started this medication. We are changing to a doctor that just doesn’t grab a prescription pad! We have been told about a natural herb called Epi- Still that is good for seizures and we have discussed it with the doctor and we have seen great results with others that have used this natural herb!

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Did You Know?

  • * In 1970, Autism affected 1 out of 10,000 children
  • * Autism now affects 1 out of 88 children
  • * Autism affects 1 in 54 boys
  • * 1.7 million Americans have some form of autism
  • * 4 out of 5 autistic children are boys

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