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Autism, ADHD and parent-reported behavioural difficulties in young children with epilepsy

Journal article
Authors Colin Reilly
Patricia Atkinson
Ayesha Memon
Chloe Jones
Lyvia Dabydeen
J. Helen Cross
Krishna B. Das
Christopher Gillberg
Brian G.R. Neville
Rod C. Scott
Published in Seizure
Volume 71
Pages 233-239
ISSN 1059-1311
Publication year 2019
Published at Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre
Pages 233-239
Language en
Keywords ADHD, Autism, Behaviour, Children, Epilepsy
Subject categories Psychiatry


© 2019 British Epilepsy Association Purpose: To provide data on the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and parent reported behaviour difficulties in young children with epilepsy, and to compare results with children with neurodisability (neurodevelopmental/neurological difficulties) without epilepsy. Method: Children with epilepsy (1–7 years, n = 48) and children with neurodisability (1–7 years, n = 48) matched for gender, chronological and developmental age underwent psychological assessment. Parents completed measures of behaviour including the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). DSM-5 diagnoses of ASD and ADHD were made at consensus case conferences. Factors associated with child behaviour were analysed using linear regression. Results: Of the children with epilepsy, 18% met ASD criteria and 40% met ADHD criteria (corresponding figures in the non-epilepsy group were 41% and 27%). A large proportion (76%–78%) in both groups scored in the at-risk range on the SDQ and frequently had difficulties across multiple behavioural domains. Children with epilepsy had more concerns expressed regarding attention and mood. None of the epilepsy factors were significantly associated with scores on the behavioural measures. Significance: Young children with epilepsy had a very high level of parent reported behavioural difficulties and a high risk for ADHD and ASD highlighting the need for comprehensive multidisciplinary assessment. Behavioural concerns were not greater than for other children with non-epilepsy related neurodisability with the exception of attention and mood. Epilepsy related factors were not associated with child behaviour, suggesting that seizures per se do not confer a unique risk for behavioural difficulties.

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