Is Neurofeedback Training a Viable Treatment Option for Asperger’s Syndrome?
Although Asperger’s Syndrome is categorized as a form of Autism, there are some distinct differences between the two. However, to understand the symptoms, causes, and treatments associated with Asperger’s, it is necessary to learn about Autism as a whole. Today, it is estimated that 1% of people in the United States have some type of autism spectrum disorder. That means there are as many as 1.5 million Americans who live with Autism in one form or another.
Of even greater concern is the annual 10% to 17% increase in the number of babies born with Autism. In fact, it is now estimated that 1 in every 110 babies are born with an autistic spectrum disorder. Compared to numbers from just a few years ago, this represents a whopping 1,148% growth rate, making Autism the fastest growing development disability known.
What is Asperger’s Syndrome?
As stated, under the autistic spectrum disorder umbrella are several different types of Autism such as High-Functioning Autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Mild Autism, Severe Autism, Rett Syndrome, and Asperger’s Syndrome. While there are similarities, it is important to note that each type of Autism is also unique.
The discovery of Asperger’s Syndrome dates back to the 1940s at which time a Viennese pediatrician noticed autistic-like behaviors and challenges specific to communication and social interaction among boys with “normal” language and intelligence development. While the term “high-functioning” was initially used, the name for this behavior was eventually changed to Asperger’s Syndrome.
The primary difference between Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism is that symptoms in someone with Asperger’s are less severe. In addition, a person with Asperger’s does not display the same delay in language and actually, a child with this form of Autism will likely have very mild symptoms coupled with normal cognitive and language skills. In some children, symptoms are so subtle that Asperger’s Syndrome is never suspected.
Common Symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome
- The way symptoms present with Asperger’s Syndrome will be different for every person but for the most part, any of the following is anticipated.
- Typically skilled in knowing categories of information such as the names of US Presidents or baseball statistics
- Outstanding memory ability although there are challenges with abstract concepts
- Rather than speech delay, someone with Asperger’s generally possess excellent communicative skills although displayed in a unique way such as a low voice tone or lack of inflection and rhythmic pattern
- Trouble understanding the irony or humor in language
- Commonly has delayed motor skills or appears as clumsy
- No significant cognitive delay and in fact, the majority of people with Asperger’s Syndrome rank at or above the average intelligence level
Treating Asperger’s Syndrome
Traditionally, someone with Asperger’s Syndrome is treated with medication. While there are times when prescription medication is necessary, even for someone going through neurofeedback training, there is an added challenge. Along with symptoms of Asperger’s, it is common for an individual to have some other condition such as ADHD or OCD.
As imagined, this makes it difficult for doctors to find the right drug, dose, or combination of drugs. However, the other problem is that many medications used for Asperger’s cause unpleasant side effects. Other conventional treatments for Asperger’s Syndrome include confidence building playtime, establishing daily routines, and using various visual aids.
In addition to the standard approach of treating Asperger’s, many people benefit greatly from an alternative treatment called neurofeedback training. With this form of biofeedback, an individual’s brain is retrained to perform differently or control automatic bodily functions through the use of special electronic monitoring equipment. Best of all, neurofeedback is not stressful or painful, making training sessions easy for someone with Asperger’s.
With an Autism Spectrum Disorder, the brain is not properly regulated. Typically, an individual has excessive connectivity in some areas of the brain coupled with deficient connectivity in others. Using neurofeedback training, a continuous feed of information passes through electrodes attached to a person’s scalp, which through a number of sessions actually retrains or regulates the brain.
Ultimately, ill-working brain patterns become new and healthy patterns. As a result, symptoms associated with Asperger’s diminish or disappear altogether. Although there are many remarkable aspects of neurofeedback training, one in particular is that only the effected part of the brain is targeted using a special “brain mapping” technique. Not only are non-effected areas of the brain left untouched, this allows the areas that are impacted to recovery quicker.
Remember, Asperger’s is a highly functioning form of Autism and because of this, neurofeedback training has made it possible for many people to eventually stop taking medication or needing other more conventional treatments. Of course, it might take several sessions to reach that point but it has been proven time and time again that this form of biofeedback is a critical tool for overcoming the symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome.