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Neuropedia Children’s Neuroscience Centre is the first of its kind, highly specialist paediatric neuroscience centre in the UAE Image Credit: Supplied

Dr Aman P.S. Sohal, Founding Partner, Clinical Director and Consultant Paediatric Neurologist at Neuropedia, sheds light on how critical neurological conditions are diagnosed in children and managed

Why did you decide to specialise in paediatric neurology?

Paediatric neurology is an extremely challenging yet hugely exciting branch of paediatrics. I have always been fascinated by the varied presentations of neurological problems in children right from the early years of my career. I have had the privilege of working with and learning from some of world-class paediatric neurologists in the UK before working as a consultant paediatric neurologist at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

A paediatric neurologist is a specialised doctor who looks after children with problems affecting their nervous system. In simple terms, any child who suffers from the problems relating to his/her brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles is dealt with by a paediatric neurologist.

The most rewarding aspect of this branch is the smile that we can put on the faces of the child and their parents, who have gone through an extremely difficult time. And this, I believe, inspires me to get up every morning to go to work, helping families burdened with some of the most complex childhood disorders.

A paediatric neurologist is a specialised doctor who looks after children with problems affecting their nervous system. In simple terms, any child who suffers from the problems relating to his/her brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles is dealt with by a paediatric neurologist.

- Dr Aman P.S. Sohal, Founding Partner, Clinical Director and Consultant Paediatric Neurologist at Neuropedia

What are some of the common concerns of people when they come to see you at Neuropedia?

I come across a wide variety of problems in my daily practice at Neuropedia. Children who are quite sick and unwell are advised to urgently seek help from their nearest hospitals. Once they are stable enough to be discharged, they are carefully followed up at Neuropedia clinic. On the other hand, my outpatient clinic practice at Neuropedia deals with problems such as headache, migraine, epilepsy and seizures, autistic spectrum disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), muscle diseases, cerebral palsy and spasticity management, neurodevelopment disorder, movement disorders, and sleep disorder. I also come across cases of neurobehavioural disorders such as autism, attention and concentration problems, poor focus, low self-esteem, anxiety and depression at my clinic. These disorders are dealt by a multidisciplinary team of highly skilled professionals, including child psychologists and behavioural therapists, working together for the benefit of the child.

What causes epilepsy and seizures in children? How do you treat these conditions?

Electrical activity is happening in our brain all the time, with the cells in the brain sending messages to each other. A seizure occurs due to a sudden burst of abnormal intense electrical activity in the brain, leading to a temporary disruption to the neural networks. When a child suffers from epilepsy, he has an increased tendency to have seizures. Anyone can have a one-off seizure, but this doesn’t always mean they have epilepsy. Epilepsy in children is usually only diagnosed if someone has had more than one seizure. Epilepsy can start at any age and there are many types of the condition.

The mainstay of diagnosing epilepsy is by taking a detailed description of the seizures and video of the seizure wherever possible. This is followed by a battery of tests, which are carried out at Neuropedia.

The treatment of epilepsy involves multiple meetings with the family, so that they understand the importance of the medications that need to be taken on a daily basis. Anti-epilepsy medicines do not necessarily cure the disorder, but they do help stop or reduce the number of seizures and with time many of these conditions naturally burn out.

When epilepsy medicine doesn’t work well for a patient, I suggest other types of treatments, including a special ketogenic diet that is commonly used at Neuropedia for severe drug resistant epilepsy.

How do you diagnose autism in children? What are the new trends in the treatment of autism?

Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition that is becoming increasingly prevalent these days. Classically, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is diagnosed around four or five years of age, but the signs and symptoms can be recognised as early as two.

ASD can present varied symptoms such as poor response by the child when called, lack of pointing towards objects of interest, poor eye contact and abnormal speech patterns.

The diagnosis of ASD involves a detailed history and identifying behaviours suggestive of autism. The history and examination are supplemented by test tools based on standardised criterion that are well recognised internationally.

As a child neurologist, my role is also to ensure there are no underlying medical/neurological conditions that may give rise to the child’s autism features.

The management of ASD requires a multidisciplinary approach involving various health professionals, which includes paediatric neurologist, child psychologist, child psychiatrist, behavioural therapist, occupational therapist and speech therapist, depending on the child’s needs.

It is extremely important to educate the parents as they are an integral part of the child’s therapy programme. An early intervention approach should always be encouraged as it is proven to be useful in improving a child’s behaviour and neurodevelopment, as opposed to a therapy initiated at a later stage.

Could you tell us about the treatments and services you offer at Neuropedia?

Neuropedia Children’s Neuroscience Centre is the first of its kind, highly specialist paediatric neuroscience centre in the UAE, treating children from the ages 0-16 years and in some special circumstances up to 18 years of age. Neuropedia strives to provide children and their families with a comprehensive approach to treatment, covering everything from the initial diagnosis and treatment to rehabilitation and long-term follow-up care under one roof.

The range of services provided at Neuropedia include neurology consultations; neurophysiology procedures such as EEG, 24-hour ambulatory EEG and nerve conduction study; child psychology and neuropsychology; and comprehensive paediatric neuro-rehabilitation programmes, which include physiotherapy, occupational therapy (sensory integration), speech therapy, ABA therapy and paediatric dietetics.

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