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Landau-Kleffner Syndrome (LKS) in Children

What is Landau-Kleffner syndrome (LKS) in children?

Landau-Kleffner syndrome is a rare nervous system disorder. It causes loss of ability to understand and use language, and it can cause seizures. It can happen in a child that has been developing normally. The symptoms may occur over time. Or they may happen suddenly. Treatment can be done to help prevent seizures. Speech therapy may help your child regain some language skills.

What causes Landau-Kleffner syndrome in a child?

Researchers are still learning what causes LKS. It may be caused by changes (mutations) in genes, or by the effects of the environment on certain genes. In some cases, it may be caused by changes in a gene called GRIN2A. But most people with LKS do not have changes in the GRIN2A gene. They may have changes in other genes (RELN, BSN, EPHB2, NID2). Or the condition may be caused by the immune system attacking its own tissues. This is known as an autoimmune disorder.

Which children are at risk for Landau-Kleffner syndrome?

A child is more at risk if he or she has a parent with LKS. The condition is more common in boys.

What are the symptoms of Landau-Kleffner syndrome in a child?

With LKS, the brain has problems processing speech and language. Symptoms can start from age 2 to age 8. They occur a bit differently in each child. They may happen slowly over time or occur suddenly. They can include:

  • Not understanding what people say

  • Seeming to have hearing loss

  • Having trouble speaking words

  • Total loss of ability to speak

  • Using gestures or signs to communicate

LKS can also cause seizures. These are short periods of abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Seizures can cause episodes of uncontrolled physical motion or loss of attention.

Some children with LKS may also have:

  • Behavior problems

  • Attention problems

  • Hyperactivity

  • Intellectual disability

The symptoms of LKS may look like other health conditions. Have your child see his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is Landau-Kleffner syndrome diagnosed in a child?

The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she may also ask about your family’s health history. The provider will give your child a physical exam. Your child may also have tests, such as:

  • Electroencephalogram (EEG). An EEG is a painless test that shows the electrical activity of the brain. The test looks for abnormal activity while your child is asleep or awake.

  • Genetic testing. This may be done to look for changes in the GRIN2A gene or other genes.

  • Brain MRI. This test uses large magnets and a computer to create images of tissues in the body. It may be done to check for other problems in the brain that may cause symptoms like those of LKS.

  • Hearing tests (audiometry). These may be done to check for hearing loss that may cause signs like those of LKS.

How is Landau-Kleffner syndrome treated in a child?

Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is. Treatment may include:

  • Anticonvulsant medicine to help prevent seizures

  • Corticosteroid medicine to help prevent seizures

  • Speech therapy to regain some language skills

  • Sign-language instruction

  • Surgery called multiple subpial transection to reduce seizures

Treatments for LKS are still being researched. Talk with your child’s healthcare provider about how to find a specialist to treat LKS. Talk with your child’s healthcare providers about the risks, benefits, and possible side effects of all treatments.

How can I help prevent Landau-Kleffner syndrome in my child?

Gene changes may be passed from a parent to a child. A child of someone with LKS has a high risk of inheriting a gene change that causes LKS. But not all people with LKS may have gene changes that have been passed down. And a gene passed from parent to child may not cause disease symptoms. Talk with your healthcare provider about referring you to a genetic counselor before planning a pregnancy.

How can I help my child manage Landau-Kleffner syndrome?

LKS is a lifelong condition. But you can help your child manage it by:

  • Working with your child’s healthcare team about a treatment plan

  • Making sure your child takes his or her medicines exactly as prescribed

  • Talking with the healthcare team about new treatments that may be available

  • Making sure your child has speech therapy and special education resources as needed

When should I call my child’s healthcare provider?

Call the healthcare provider if your child has:

  • Symptoms that don’t get better, or get worse

  • New symptoms

Key points about Landau-Kleffner syndrome in a child

  • Landau-Kleffner syndrome causes loss of ability to understand and use language, and it can cause seizures.

  • LKS may be caused by changes (mutations) in genes.

  • Symptoms may start from age 2 to age 8. They may happen over time, or happen suddenly.

  • Symptoms can include not understanding what people say, seeming to have hearing loss, and having trouble speaking.

  • Treatment can include medicines or surgery to help prevent seizures. Speech therapy may help your child regain some language skills.

  • LKS is a lifelong condition. But you can help your child manage it by working with your child’s healthcare team about a treatment plan.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.

  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.

  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.

  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects are.

  • Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.

  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.

  • Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.

  • If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.

  • Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.

Online Medical Reviewer: Ashutosh Kacker, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Louise Cunningham, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 4/30/2015
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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