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Autism and Seizures

A 1/3 of people with autism also experience seizures, sometimes related to epilepsy. I experience a type of seizure known as a focal (partial) seizure. This type of seizure causes my eyes to flicker and roll as well as causing spasms and rapid breathing.

It can be difficult to spot a seizure – especially when a person has autism as the symptoms can be passed off as a sensory overload or an autism trait.

The link between autism and seizures is still being explored. Like autism, seizures exists on a spectrum. Severity varies widely among people. There are several types of seizures, each with somewhat different symptoms:

  • Tonic-clonic seizures are the most common. Also known as gran mal seizures, they produce muscle stiffening followed by jerking. Gran mal seizures also produce loss of consciousness.
  • Absence seizures can be difficult to recognise. Also known as petit mal seizures, they are marked by periods of unresponsiveness. The person may stare into space. He or she may or may not exhibit jerking or twitching.
  • Tonic seizures involve muscle stiffening alone.
  • Clonic seizures involve repeated jerking movements on both sides of the body.
  • Myoclonic seizures involve jerking or twitching of the upper body, arms or legs.
  • Atonic seizures involve sudden limpness, or loss of muscle tone. The person may fall or drop his or her head involuntarily.

What should I do if someone is having a focal seizure?

Simple partial seizures rarely require first aid. Since consciousness is preserved, the person is almost always aware of the seizure and the surroundings. When care or help is needed, what to do would depend on the specific seizure symptoms.

Examples of what to do:

  • Stop any activity in which you could get hurt when symptoms that affect vision, thinking, emotions, or affects your sensation or movement. This would include hallucinations too – what you may be hearing, seeing, or thinking may not be clear during this type of seizure.
  • If you are walking, sit down to avoid falling.
  • Remove harmful objects if an arm or leg movement could bump into them.
  • Stay away from open flames, bodies of water, or other unsafe areas.
  • Sometimes relaxing activities such as deep breathing or imagery can help slow down or abort symptoms in some people. Others may find that focusing on a specific activity can help.
  • If the person has a vagus nerve stimular, use the magnet to help stop the event.
  • Get the person levels, look them in the eyes and try to reassure them that you’re there and present.

Usually further help isn’t needed after simple partial seizures. Yet if the seizure occurs in clusters or goes into a complex partial or generalise seizure, more help may be needed.

call 111 in the U.K. for advice if you are unsure and in emergencies or where the person is not recovering call 999.

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World Mental Health Day 2017

This post is a day late, frankly because yesterday I spent the day travelling to London. A few weeks ago I got invited to a reception at Buckingham Palace for those who work in the mental health sector. The reception was held in the presence of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales.

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i have been advocating for change in the mental health sector for 5 years now. The overall objective of world mental health day is raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilising efforts in support of mental health, so this blog post will do just that.

What is a mental health problem?

Mental health problems can affect the way you think, feel and behave. They affect around one in four people in Britain, and range from common mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, to more rare problems such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. A mental health problem can feel just as bad, or worse, as any other physical illness – only you cannot see it.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of a mental health problem can vary, depending on the disorder, circumstances and other factors. Mental illness symptoms can affect emotions, thoughts and behaviours.

Examples of signs and symptoms include:

  • Feeling sad or down
  • Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
  • Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
  • Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations
  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
  • Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Major changes in eating habits
  • Sex drive changes
  • Excessive anger, hostility or violence
  • Suicidal thinking

Sometimes symptoms of a mental health disorder appear as physical problems, such as stomach pain, back pain, headache, or other unexplained aches and pains.

Where to go for help

The best way to start is normally by talking to a health care professional, such as your doctor (also known as your General Practitioner or GP).

Your GP can:

  • make a diagnosis
  • offer you support and treatments
  • refer you to a specialist service

What should I say to my GP?

It can be hard to know how to talk to your doctor about your mental health – especially when you’re not feeling well. But it’s important to remember that there is no wrong way to tell someone how you’re feeling.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Be honest and open.
  • Focus on how you feel, rather than what diagnosis you might meet.
  • Try to explain how you’ve been feeling over the past few months or weeks, and anything that has changed.
  • Use words and descriptions that feel natural to you – you don’t have to say specific things to get help.
  • Try not to worry that your problem is too small or unimportant – everyone deserves help and your doctor is there to support you.

click here to learn about other support services

Some pictures from last night

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William and Kate entering
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Me standing near Kate
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young people campaigners
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Welcoming William and Kate 
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meeting Professor Green
autism · autism sensory bag · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Myths about Autism

Although over 700,000 people in the UK are autistic (more than 1 in 100 people), false and often negative perceptions about the condition are common.

This lack of understanding can make it difficult for people on the autism spectrum to have their condition recognised and to access the support they need. Misconceptions can lead to some autistic people feeling isolated and alone. In extreme cases, it can also lead to abuse and bullying.

Autism affects more than 1 in 100 people – fact. Over 700,000 people in UK are autistic, which means that 2.8m people have a relative on the autism spectrum.

People tend to ‘grow out’ of autism in adulthood – myth. It’s a lifelong condition – autistic children become autistic adults.

Autism affects both boys and girls – fact. There is a popular misconception that autism is simply a male condition. This is false.

Some autistic people don’t speak – fact. Some autistic people are non-verbal and communicate through other means. However, autism is a spectrum condition, so everyone’s autism is different.

Autism is a mental health problem – myth. Autism is a developmental disability. It’s a difference in how your brain works. Autistic people can have good mental health, or experience mental health problems, just like anyone else.

All autistic people are geniuses – myth. Just under half of all people with an autism diagnosis also have a learning disability. Others have an IQ in the average to above average range. ‘Savant’ abilities like extraordinary memory are rare.

Everyone is a bit autistic – myth. While everyone might recognise some autistic traits or behaviours in people they know, to be diagnosed with autism, a person must consistently display behaviours across all the different areas of the condition. Just having a fondness for routines, a good memory or being shy doesn’t make a person ‘a bit autistic’.

[Credit: NAS]

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