Jenny McCarthy's Son was Never Autistic?

| by Kev Leitch

A provocative piece in the National Post suggests that very thing.

It is not even certain that her child ever had autism; neurologists have pointed out that her description of the symptoms, and recovery, are more consistent with a rare disorder, Landau-Kleffner Syndrome. Ms. McCarthy may thus be trumpeting a “cure” for a disease of which she has no parental experience.

More than a little interested I tracked down this Letter to Neurology Today.

In After Vaccine-Autism Case Settlement, MDs Urged to Continue Recommending Vaccines (June 5), Dawn Fallik correctly cites Jenny McCarthy as a celebrity fanning the flames of the vaccine-autism link. McCarthy also makes parents think that autism can be cured with unproven treatments – as she claims is the case with her son – documented in her much publicized book, Louder than Words: A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism (Dutton 2007).

Unfortunately, what the public does not realize as well as perhaps McCarthy is that her son was most likely misdiagnosed with autism in the first place. His disorder began with seizures and, subsequently, with the seizures treated, he improved. This would be more consistent with Landau-Kleffner syndrome, which often is misdiagnosed as autism.

Daniel B. Rubin, MD, PhD

OK, so next stop Landau-Kleffner syndrome.

It is characterized by the sudden or gradual development of aphasia (the inability to understand or express language) and an abnormal electroencephalogram (EEG). LKS affects the parts of the brain that control comprehension and speech. The disorder usually occurs in children between the ages of 5 and 7 years. Typically, children with LKS develop normally but then lose their language skills. While many of the affected individuals have clinical seizures, some only have electrographic seizures, including electrographic status epilepticus of sleep (ESES).

The syndrome can be difficult to diagnose and may be misdiagnosed as autism, pervasive developmental disorder, hearing impairment, learning disability, auditory/verbal processing disorder, attention deficit disorder, mental retardation, childhood schizophrenia, or emotional/behavioral problems.

And is Rubin right? Did Jenny McCarthy’s son Evan’s illness begin with epilepsy?

“I found Evan seizing in his crib,” she told ABC’s Deborah Roberts. “He was foaming at the mouth and his eyes rolled back.”

McCarthy rushed 2-year-old Evan to the hospital. After a few days of multiple seizures, doctors concluded that Evan had epilepsy, but McCarthy was not convinced. Her maternal instinct told her that something was still wrong.

Angry and skeptical of the medical advice she had been given, McCarthy went to a second neurologist who gave her an earth-shattering new diagnosis: Her son has autism.

So yeah he is. Evan’s first presentation was epilepsy. Not exactly enough to give anything approaching a definite answer but still, interesting. I wonder who diagnosed Evan.

Read more: "Autism Blog - Jenny McCarthy’s son was never autistic? « Left Brain/Right Brain"