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Undiagnosed Autism And Developmental Delay In Children With Epilepsy

MRI of the human brainResearch presented today at the American Epilepsy Society’s 65th annual meeting suggests that systematic screening for developmental delay (DD) and autism should be routine for all children seen in epilepsy clinics. Investigators at Children’s Memorial Hospital, Chicago, evaluated the potential of giving screening questionnaires to parents of pediatric epilepsy patients seen in an epilepsy monitoring unit (EMU) and a ketogenic diet clinic.

More than 75% of the children screened positive for developmental delay, 41% of them with autism. Although many of the cases had been previously diagnosed, more than one-third of the children did not have a prior DD or autism diagnosis and were referred for further confirmatory evaluation.

According to Anne Berg and Breanne Fisher of the investigative team, “The yield of screening in the EMU setting for developmental and behavioral comorbidities is sufficiently high to support routine screening of both new onset and established cases of pediatric epilepsy. Our findings also suggest that all children seen in the epilepsy clinic should be screened for these comorbidities.”

The study was conducted among children under age five seen between November 1, 2010 and May 15, 2011. Parents were asked to complete the developmental screening instrument (Ages and Stages Questionnaire, ASQ) and one of two autism screening instruments used in the study. No child screened positive for autism alone.

The investigators have now focused the program on evaluating the prospective use of a more extensive battery of screening tools with new-onset patients followed over time.

Material adapted from American Epilepsy Society (AES).

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