Patient Care Guidance: EEG for a Child with Autism
How do you perform an EEG on a patient that is sensitive to touch, possibly uncomfortable with unfamiliar places, and prone to overstimulation? Few can fully grasp what it’s really like to have autism. There are movie and book characters with autism, studies of how autism affects the brain, and of course first-hand accounts from those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
What we do know is that undergoing EEGs can be stressful for patients with autism. Unfortunately, since seizures and autism are often linked, EEGs are a medically necessary procedure. They are not a physically painful experience. A patient that is unwilling to complete an EEG will result in loss of valuable data. That very data could improve the patient’s life.
Prepare the Patient
Well before the EEG takes place, it’s important to prepare the patient mentally and physically.
Levy doesn’t just tell – but he also shows the patient the exact procedure so that there are no surprises on the day of the EEG. From videos to PowerPoint slideshows, he gives his patients every chance to fully understand and prepare for the EEG. Even at the time of the study, Levy and his team walk through the process with his patients and sometimes has them repeat back what the next step is. By this time, the patients are so familiar with the process, the EEG has become a part of their routine.
Parents and guardians should also be prepared. Assurances of the necessity of this procedure from a friendly face can help patients feel at ease. At any time during the EEG study, the patient may try to remove their headwrap or forget that they can’t take a shower. Levy has only had a handful of data collection failures, and they’ve stemmed from a lack of supervision – not equipment malfunctions.
A hospital can be an intimidating place for an autistic child. Bright lights, strange people, and a cold bed do not make for a familiar environment. If possible, have the child stay in a more relaxing place. This could be their own home, a hotel room, or Levy’s office with its trademark green walls and purple couch. From his instructional materials, patients see the recognizable room and furniture so they know exactly what’s coming next. Continuous EEG monitoring can be done with an ambulatory EEG, so many patients and their families choose this option.
With autism, some patients don’t like to be touched, nor do they like the feeling of electrode gel on their scalp. The slight itching and dryness caused by the gel are uncomfortable for most – perhaps extremely discomforting for some autistic children. Levy sends physical samples of anything that might be touching the patient so they have a chance to familiarize themselves before the test. This could be a roll of gauze, an electrode, or a sample of the scrub. Levy confidently states, “Be focused on the comfort of the patient, and less overstimulation is possible.”
World Autism Awareness Day is April 2nd every year. However, understanding and accepting children with autism is important every day of the year. We encourage everyone to understand the link between autism and epilepsy along with the importance of EEG for treatment. Brad Levy is a proud partner of Lifelines Neuro and uses our equipment. You can learn more about Levy’s annual event Epilepsy Awareness Day at Disneyland, which brings patients, families and epilepsy experts together for education and awareness by visiting the event website.