Title: Epilepsy and other neurological diseases in the parents of children with infantile autism. A case control study.
Authors: Mouridsen SE, Rich B, Isager T.
Source: Child Psychiatry and Human Development Volume 39, 1, 2008

This is a very large, well designed, longitudinal study of children with Autism and their parents. The intention of the researchers was to answer a question that could contribute to our understanding of the causes of Autism: Do parents of children with Autism have higher rates of epilepsy and other neurological disorders than parents of typically developing kids? To answer this question the authors followed 111 children with autism who had been diagnosed with the disorder at Danish hospitals during the 1960’s 70’s and 80s. These children and their parents were followed for 27 years and were compared to 330 typically developing children. During the 27 year study the rates of epilepsy and neurological disorders amongst the parents of children with autism were no greater than the rates found in parents of typically developing kids. The conclusion by the authors is that family history of epilepsy is not related to the onset of Autism. One brief comment about this study is in order. Notice that these children were diagnosed with autism in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. All children were re-diagnosed based on chart reviews in 1985. One major limitation is that the criteria used, but especially the method used, to diagnose children in 1985 is no longer considered valid or appropriate. Thus, although it is still possible that family history of neurological disorders is related to autism when examining children diagnosed with more modern (and narrow) definitions of autism, other recent studies have also failed to find an association between family history of neurological problems and autism (see for example Micali N, Chakrabarti S, Fombonne E (2004) The broad autism phenotype. Autism 8:21–37).

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