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Catatonia and Autism: A Historical Review, With Implications for Electroconvulsive Therapy

Dhossche, Dirk M. MD, PhD*; Reti, Irving M. MBBS; Wachtel, Lee E. MD

doi: 10.1097/YCT.0b013e3181957363

Current autism research is historically separated from catatonia and other childhood psychotic disorders, although catatonia and autism share several common symptoms (mutism, echolalia, stereotypic speech and repetitive behaviors, posturing, grimacing, rigidity, mannerisms, and purposeless agitation). Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) effectively treats catatonia and catatonia-related conditions of intractable compulsions, tics, and self-injury in people with autism. We assess the incidence of catatonic symptoms in autism, examine emerging ECT indications in people with autism and related developmental disorders, and encourage ethical debate and legal-administrative action to assure equal access to ECT for people with autism.

From the *University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, MS; †Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; and ‡Kennedy Krieger Institute/Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD.

Received for publication November 6, 2008; accepted November 6, 2008.

Reprints: Dirk Dhossche, MD, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, University of Mississippi Medical Center, 2500 North State St, Jackson, MS 39216 (e-mail:

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.