Clinical phenotype of autism spectrum disorders in children of preschool and school age, burdened epileptic seizures

Keywords: autism spectrum disorders, polymorbidity, epileptic seizures, recurrent movements, typhoid disorders


Background. Clinical polymorphism and polymorphism are inherent in the clinical phenotype of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). There is a consensus, relatively high, between 5% and 38% of the prevalence of epilepsy in ASD. There are reasons to believe that ASD with epilepsy and specific epileptic activity on EEG and ASD with hyperkinetic symptoms without signs of epileptic process can be determined by different variants of genetic polymorphism or by different variants of gene expression, determined by different influences.

Objective – to study the features of the clinical phenotype of ASD in preschool and school-age children with epileptic seizures and specific epileptic activity on EEG.

Materials and methods. In the Department of Mental Disorders of Children and Adolescents of the Institute of Psychiatry of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine 116 children aged 2-10 years with ASD were examined. The study group was divided into three subgroups: subgroup A – 23 children with a history of epileptic seizures, subgroup B – 35 children with specific forms of epileptic activity on EEG without epileptic seizures, subgroup C – 19 children with ASD having specific epileptic activity for EEG repetitive involuntary movements (motor stereotypes, motor tics) and vocalizations (vocal tics). The control group consisted of 39 children with ASD non a history of seizures and specific epileptic activity on the EEG. The follow-up of children with ASD in the comparison groups was performed for 1-1.5 years. We used such research methods: clinical-psychopathological, psychodiagnostic, psychometric, statistical.

Results. In children with ASD and comorbid epileptic seizures, disorders of social reciprocity are of crucial diagnostic importance. Communication disorders and recurrent, stereotyped behaviors, movements, and interests in children in this group are significantly less common than in comparison groups. Incidents of repetitive stereotypes in these children are associated with sensory impairments and autostimulations. Children with ASD, complicated by severe and frequent epileptic seizures, are characterized by impaired social reciprocity and communication against the background of regression or stagnation of speech and motor skills development.

Disorders of communication and repetitive behavior in ASD in children of different ages are represented by different monoqualitative syndrome (phenotypes). Younger children less than 6 years of age are dominant in stereotypical movements, while children aged 6-8 years have repetitive behaviors associated with the overriding interests.

Two subtypes of clinical phenotypes of ASD were identified: the variant with symptoms, which more closely determined the stereotypical sensor and motor behavior and the variant with symptoms of insistence on equality, with the overriding interests of preservation, identity. Movement stereotypes predominated in children with ASD without epileptic seizures and without epileptic activity on EEG. In children with ASD and epileptic activity on EEG, motor stereotypes and repetitive identity-preserving behavior were equally common.

Conclusions. Disorders of social reciprocity, communication, repetitive behavior, in particular stereotyped movements are diagnostically significant signs of ASD, in particular ASD complicated by epileptic seizures, ASD with specific epileptic activity on EEG.

According to the results of a long 1-1.5 years’ prospective study, it was established that the clinical phenotype of ASD with epileptic seizures, ASD without epileptic seizures with specific epileptic activity on EEG and RAS without epileptic seizures and changes in EEG are characterized by differing clinical picture and course.

Qualitative communication disorders and stereotypical movements in addition to ASD are observed in other psychiatric disorders, including Tourette disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and intellectual disability. Expressed repeated identity-preserving behavior is the basis for dual diagnosis of ASD and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Motor and vocal tics may be the basis for dual diagnosis of ASD and Tourette’s disorder.

The presence of age-related pathoplasty of clinical manifestations of ASD in the comparison groups was established.


1. Rossi, P. G., Parmeggiani, A., Bach, V., Santucci, M., & Visconti, P. (1995). EEG features and epilepsy in patients with autism. Brain and Development, 17(3), 169–174.
2. Tuchman, R., & Rapin, I. (2002). Epilepsy in autism. The Lancet Neurology, 1(6), 352–358.
3. Danielsson, S., Gillberg, I. C., Billstedt, E., Gillberg, C., & Olsson, I. (2005). Epilepsy in young adults with autism: a prospective populationbased follow‐up study of 120 individuals diagnosed in childhood. Epilepsia, 46(6), 918–923.
4. Levisohn, P. M. (2007). The autism‐epilepsy connection. Epilepsia, 48(9), 33–35.
5. Gubbay, S. S., Lobascher, M., & Kingerlee, P. (1970). A neurological appraisal of autistic children: Results of a Western Australian survey. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 12(4), 422–429.
6. Small, J. G. (1975). EEG and neurophysiological studies of early infantile autism. Biological Psychiatry, 10(4), 385–397.
7. Lee, B. H., Smith, T., & Paciorkowski, A. R. (2015). Autism spectrum disorder and epilepsy: disorders with a shared biology. Epilepsy & Behavior, 47, 191–201.
8. Viscidi, E. W., Triche, E. W., Pescosolido, M. F., McLean, R. L., Joseph, R. M., Spence, S. J., & Morrow, E. M. (2013). Clinical characteristics of children with autism spectrum disorder and co-occurring epilepsy. PloS one, 8(7), e67797.
9. Baron‐Cohen, S. (2009). Autism: the empathizing–systemizing (E‐S) theory. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1156(1), 68–80.
10. Baron-Cohen, S., Ashwin, E., Ashwin, C., Tavassoli, T., & Chakrabarti, B. (2009). Talent in autism: Hyper-systemizing, hyper-attention to detail and sensory hypersensitivity. Autism and talent, 364(1522), 1377–1383.
11. Lovaas, O. I., Schreibman, L., Koegel, R., & Rehm, R. (1971). Selective responding by autistic children to multiple sensory input. Journal of abnormal psychology, 77(3), 211–222.
12. Happe, F., & Frith, U. (2006). The weak coherence account: detail-focused cognitive style in autism spectrum disorders. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 36(1), 5–25.
13. Klin, A., Lin, D. J., Gorrindo, P., Ramsay, G., & Jones, W. (2009). Two-year-olds with autism orient to non-social contingencies rather than biological motion. Nature, 459(7244), 257–261.
How to Cite
Martsenkovsky, I. A., Skrypnyk, T. O., Martsenkovska, I. I., Zdoryk, I. F., & Makarenko, H. V. (2019). Clinical phenotype of autism spectrum disorders in children of preschool and school age, burdened epileptic seizures. Archives of Psychiatry, 25(2), 81-87.