COPING WITH THE UNCERTAINTIES OF SEIZURES AND EPILEPSY: MENTAL RETARDATION – IF MY CHILD IS MENTALLY RETARDED, WHAT ARE HER CHANCES OF DEVELOPING EPILEPSY?

By definition, mental retardation is a handicapping condition defined as less than average intelligence, less than average personal independence and social responsibility. Ninety-seven out of 1oo children have an intelligence score of 70—130; children with mental retardation have scores that are less than 70. In a child who is already handicapped by retardation, seizures can further impair function and require treatment. Except in the severely brain-damaged child, seizures are as readily controlled as in a child of normal intelligence.
Parents of children with substantial handicaps necessarily are deeply concerned. They are perplexed by many questions, among them the following:
“If my child is mentally retarded, what are her chances of developing epilepsy?”
About one in ten children with mental retardation also have epilepsy. The figure itself is, however, virtually meaningless since the risk of epilepsy varies markedly with the cause of retardation, its severity, and the age of the child. The severely or profoundly retarded child is far more likely to have seizures than the mildly retarded child. With children who are severely retarded, seizures are likely to begin, if they begin at all, in infancy or early childhood.
The child whose retardation is caused by brain trauma or lack of oxygen, sustained either during birth or later, is more likely to have seizures than a child whose retardation has an unknown cause. Severe retardation of genetic origin has a significantly different risk of epilepsy depending on the specific cause. In one condition, Rett’s syndrome, epilepsy occurs almost universally; in Down’s syndrome, however, the risk of seizures is only slightly higher than average.
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COPING WITH THE UNCERTAINTIES OF SEIZURES AND EPILEPSY: MENTAL RETARDATION – IF MY CHILD IS MENTALLY RETARDED, WHAT ARE HER CHANCES OF DEVELOPING EPILEPSY?By definition, mental retardation is a handicapping condition defined as less than average intelligence, less than average personal independence and social responsibility. Ninety-seven out of 1oo children have an intelligence score of 70—130; children with mental retardation have scores that are less than 70. In a child who is already handicapped by retardation, seizures can further impair function and require treatment. Except in the severely brain-damaged child, seizures are as readily controlled as in a child of normal intelligence.Parents of children with substantial handicaps necessarily are deeply concerned. They are perplexed by many questions, among them the following:”If my child is mentally retarded, what are her chances of developing epilepsy?”About one in ten children with mental retardation also have epilepsy. The figure itself is, however, virtually meaningless since the risk of epilepsy varies markedly with the cause of retardation, its severity, and the age of the child. The severely or profoundly retarded child is far more likely to have seizures than the mildly retarded child. With children who are severely retarded, seizures are likely to begin, if they begin at all, in infancy or early childhood.The child whose retardation is caused by brain trauma or lack of oxygen, sustained either during birth or later, is more likely to have seizures than a child whose retardation has an unknown cause. Severe retardation of genetic origin has a significantly different risk of epilepsy depending on the specific cause. In one condition, Rett’s syndrome, epilepsy occurs almost universally; in Down’s syndrome, however, the risk of seizures is only slightly higher than average.*194\208\8*

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