Autism and Aspergers: Another Treatment Option.
by Gail Sanders Durgin, Ph.D., BCN-Fellow, QEEGT
Tim looked at me from behind his mother. This eight year old boy was not comfortable being in a new place with a new person. He wondered what was going to happen. His mother and I chatted for a few minutes and Tim wondered over to a bookshelf where a few small toys where available for the children to play with. Tim picked a toy up and started to shake it in a ritual manner that one could tell was part of his reaction to stressful situations. He started to mumble a few sounds and soon sat down on the floor and started to rock. Tim was diagnosed with autism and his mother had been fighting for services for him since he was three years old. The school district in the county were she lived had not provided the type of educational services that Tim's mother thought he needed. She had brought him to Neurofeedback Associates Inc to see if neurofeedback could help Tim.
Because Tim had such difficulty sitting still, I decided to begin his treatment with a type of neurofeedback called LENS or Low Energy Neurofeedback System. This system uses a low power electromagnetic field to carry feedback to the person's scalp. Even though the feedback is very weak, it produces measurable effects in the brainwaves. Tim watched a relaxing DVD of underwater fish life, while I obtained a map of the brainwave activity in his head.
Tim had a pattern that is frequently seen in people diagnosed with autism. As Tim continued with sessions, his speech gradually became more understandable and his sleep behavior improved. He became more responsive to verbal requests from his mother and allowed her to dress and groom him more easily. His mother was happy when he hugged her and said “love.” As time progressed, Tim slowly but surely continued to make improvement in his behavior and ability to relate to people.
Tim is one of many children diagnosed with autism. The percentage of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder has increased dramatically in the past 20 years. Families are looking for assistance in healing and educating these children. Neurofeedback is one of the tools that has made a difference in the lives of many children. QEEG-guided neurofeedback and LENS neurofeedback are both effective in reducing symptoms.
Using QEEG-guided feedback, the child first receives a Quantitative EEG or a brain-map using a cap with 19 leads. Coben, Linden, and Meyer published their summary of endophenotypes seen in autism and Asperser's syndrome in their paper, Neurofeedback for autistic spectrum disorder: a review of the literature in Appl Psycophysiol & Biofeedback, 2010 Mar, 35(1):83-105. In this summary, they refer to 6 types of patterns seen in the brains of children and 2 types of patterns seen in Asperser's children.
Each type has different characteristic and require different neurofeedback training.
Lisa was an attractive six years of girl who had been diagnosed with autism. Her parents decided to attempt to mainstream or place their daughter in a regular classroom because they felt she would learn more appropriate behavior in a regular class. Lisa like to talk and could sit when she was receiving lots of attention but was not able to follow group instructions well or participate well in group activities. Lisa's brain map showed she had a type of excess of idling brain waves in the central region of the brain that should be suppressed when the mirror neurons are activated. When this type of wave is not suppressed, language production is affected on the left side of the brain and emotional empathy, body language and emotional content affected on the right side of the brain.
Lisa started to come for Neurofeedback sessions 2 times a week. After a few months, her teacher reported that she was able to follow group directions better in school and required less individual instruction. She began to articulate her feelings and desires more clearly and became less frustrated and emotional. As the months passed, she was able to perform her personal care tasks with less supervision. During recess one day, the teacher noticed the Lisa was actually trying to imitate the actions of some of the other children on the playground for the first time. Lisa's mirror neurons were beginning to engage and suppress the excess idling rhythm. She was able to begin learning by observation.
Alex was a happy 6 year old child but had shown an over reaction to sensory stimuli from a very early age. Her mother had taken him to Occupational Therapy and Alex had made many gains. He still had problems in social situations and could be easily over stimulated. He liked to play with friends and siblings for a short amount of time but would tire quickly and retreat to a less stimulating environment. His school work was on grade level but he loss attention easily in the classroom. With his mother's supervision, he completed his homework but needed many breaks. Alex was brought to Neurofeedback by his mother. She wanted to see if things could go more easily for her son and improve his ability to do tasks independently. After his brainmap was processed, one autism endophenotypes was observed. Alex had high delta and theta which can present as extreme activity, inattention, and impulsive behavior. These symptoms are also seen in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Dr. Durgin has been providing Neurofeedback services in the Triad since 2000 and offers the latest innovations in neurofeedback training.
Published in Natural Triad, April 2012.