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 http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org