Electroencephalogram (EEG) for children with autism spectrum disorder: evidential considerations for routine screening

  • Ronald J. SwatzynaEmail author
  • Nash N. Boutros
  • Ann C. Genovese
  • Erin K. MacInerney
  • Alexandra J. Roark
  • Gerald P. Kozlowski
Original Contribution


Routine electroencephalograms (EEG) are not recommended as a screen for epileptic discharges (EDs) in current practice guidelines for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, a review of the research from the last three decades suggests that this practice should be reevaluated. The significant comorbidity between epilepsy and ASD, its shared biological pathways, risk for developmental regression, and cognitive challenges demand increased clinical investigation requiring a proactive approach. This review highlights and explains the need for screening EEGs for children with ASD. EEG would assist in differentiating EDs from core features of ASD and could be included in a comprehensive assessment. EEG also meets the demand for evidence-based precision medicine and focused care for the individual, especially when overlapping processes of development are present.


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) Electroencephalography (EEG) Epilepsy Epileptic discharges Screening Evidence-based medicine 



We would like to thank Jay Gunkelman for his guidance and mentorship throughout this study. Additionally, we are grateful to Judy Crawford for proofreading our manuscript.

Authors’ contributions

AG developed the original draft and started constructing the table. RS, EM, AR, GK further developed the study with AR completing the table. RS, EM, AR, and GK expanded the scope of the study and developed the conclusions. RS, AG, EM, AR, and GK as a group approved the final manuscript.


The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Availability of data and material

Data sharing not applicable to this article as no datasets were generated or analyzed during the current study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ronald J. Swatzyna
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nash N. Boutros
    • 2
  • Ann C. Genovese
    • 3
  • Erin K. MacInerney
    • 4
  • Alexandra J. Roark
    • 4
  • Gerald P. Kozlowski
    • 5
  1. 1.Electro-Neuro Analysis ResearchTarnow Center for Self-ManagementHoustonUSA
  2. 2.Behavioral Neurology DivisionThe Saint Luke’s Marion Bloch Neuroscience InstituteKansas CityUSA
  3. 3.Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryThe University of Kansas Medical CenterKansas CityUSA
  4. 4.Tarnow Center for Self-ManagementHoustonUSA
  5. 5.Department of Clinical PsychologySaybrook UniversityOaklandUSA

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