New research investigates the evidence on co-occurring autism and epilepsy

On average, autistic people with epilepsy have poorer quality of life, poor health and can die early. We’ve known this for years, but a lack of evidence based strategic action has blocked progress.

Autistica, the UK’s national autism research charity, has led a partnership with Epilepsy Research UK and Young Epilepsy to fund research to summarise the available evidence on co-occurring autism and epilepsy, outlining the scale of the issue in human, social and economic terms.

This work was conducted by researchers at the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health and aims to help people with both conditions and their families further understand themselves, as well as to help health, care and educational services to provide better support.

Key findings:

  • If you are autistic and have learning difficulties, you are more likely to have epilepsy than other autistic people
  • There is very little evidence which explores the economic impact of having both conditions on people or services
  • This is the very first study to take into account the lived experiences of people with both conditions

Key recommendations:

  • Improve awareness of the frequent co-occurrence of autism and epilepsy
  • Make hospital visits more autism-friendly
  • Improve awareness of autism among epilepsy professionals
  • Screen people with epilepsy for autism and other neurodevelopmental and mental health conditions
  • Ensure that people with autism and epilepsy have access to evidence-based therapies for co-occurring conditions

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