Landau-Kleffner syndrome is a rare form of epilepsy that affects speech development in young children and usually causes seizures.
Landau-Kleffner Syndrome, is a rare disorder with no known cause. The condition is characterized by the gradual or sudden loss of the ability to understand and use spoken language, and the onset of seizures, which usually occur at night. The condition usually appears in children between 3 and 7 years of age.
With this condition, seizures usually occur infrequently and usually during sleep. A child with Landau-Kleffner syndrome may experience some or all of these types of seizures:
- Focal motor seizures – With this type of seizure, the child experiences spasming or jerking of one muscle or one muscle group.
- Tonic seizures – With this type of seizure, the child suddenly and completely loses consciousness and the arms and legs stiffen, usually causing them to fall to the ground.
- Atonic seizures – With this type of seizure, the child experiences a sudden loss of muscle tone, which causes them to collapse into the ground – sometimes head first.
Besides seizures, children with this condition can also experience these symptoms:
- Attention deficit problems, with or without hyperactivity, anxiety and aggression
- Progressive loss of ability to understand spoken language, to speak, or some combination of speaking and understanding
The Epilepsy Center at Children’s Health is the first epilepsy program in the country to be certified by the Joint Commission, the nation’s preeminent standard-setting accrediting and certifying regulatory body in healthcare. We are also a Level 4 Epilepsy Center, providing the highest level of treatment for children with epilepsy. That means we have experience identifying Landau-Kleffner Syndrome, and in researching the latest advances in treatment for the condition.
Our interdisciplinary medical team, which includes speech pathologists and neuropsychologists, has the experience to not only comprehensively diagnose children with this condition, but we remain the area’s only center to perform the most advanced procedures and therapies for the treatment of epilepsy.
At Children’s Health, our treatment includes education and support for the whole family. In addition, the Epilepsy Center works with referring physicians and area Emergency Departments to:
- Provide seizure safety education programs
- Expedite appointments in order to get your child evaluated quickly
Tests and Diagnosis
To diagnose Landau-Kleffner Syndrome, your physician will do a detailed physical exam of your child and do an electroencephalogram (EEG) test. An EEG is performed by placing electrodes on the scalp and recording the electrical activity of the brain.
Because sleep activates the epilepsy waves in these children, the EEG must be performed while your child is asleep. Our Epilepsy Monitoring Unit is an eight-bed dedicated wing staffed by nurses, registered EEG technologists, child life specialists and physicians on the medical staff with expertise in epilepsy and other neurological conditions.
For most children, medication can effectively control the seizures but is usually not effective against the language disorder. Medications can include:
- Antiseizure medication
- Steroid therapy
- IV immunoglobulin
What causes Landau-Kleffner Syndrome?
There is no known cause for Landau-Kleffner Syndrome.
What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a condition that affects how the nerve cells in the brain communicate with each other. When the normal electrical activity in the brain interferes with this communication process, seizures can occur.
What are the symptoms of a seizure?
The epilepsy symptoms most people recognize are shaking (called convulsions) combined with the body getting rigid, clenching the jaw, and biting the tongue. These are called tonic-clonic seizures and many people still know them as grand mal seizures. But some seizures are barely noticeable. Children may stare into space, stop talking abruptly and then start talking again, or start repetitious movements like chewing their lips or moving a hand. These types of seizures are called absence seizures, which used to be known as petit mal seizures. Sometimes a child may experience smelling something that isn’t there, numbness or a tingling sensations before the seizure. These are called auras.
What should I do while my child is having a seizure?
If the seizure is small twitching or staring, they should come out of it easily. For convulsions, make sure your child is in a chair that they can’t fall out of or lying on the floor with a pillow under their head. Turn their head to the side, but NEVER try to put anything into their mouth. Do not shake or hit them or shout at them. If the seizure lasts for more than five minutes or seems violent, call 9-1-1.
After a seizure, your child may be confused, foggy or tired. If they want to lie down, let them.
Where can I find a support group?
Our Epilepsy Center will provide you with resources to help both you and your child. The Resources link on this webpage is also a good source for more information about epilepsy and support groups.