Sunday, May 16, 2010

Neurofeedback Therapy For Autism and Asperger's Syndrome

Most people cannot relate to the profound challenges of life with autism. But if this is something you are all too familiar with, you are naturally interested in any type of therapy that has shown promise and could be used to change the life of a friend or loved one. One such treatment for autism and Asperger's syndrome is neurofeedback.

Consider the case of a 14-year-old girl named Carly, whose story was featured on 20/20. At a very young age, she had been diagnosed with autism, and had been written off as being mentally incompetent. As she grew, her body flopped and flailed and her tantrums were continuous, but her parents refused to give up. They worked 40-60 hours a week with Carly. Progress was slow, but their love for their daughter impelled them to persist.

Then, one day, at the age of 11, Carly sat down at a computer and, typing one finger at a time, revealed that there was a very intelligent young lady buried beneath the outward persona she presented verbally and physically. She was not "stupid" or "retarded"; she was a very bright girl with real emotions. Carly may have single-handedly changed the way the world views people with severe forms of autism. She is now writing a novel.

Another astounding case is that of an eight-year-old boy diagnosed with autism. He had a very limited vocabulary, and did not like to be touched. After 98 sessions of neurofeedback therapy, his parents were thrilled to observe several positive changes. His medications were cut in half, his speech patterns slowed down and became easier to understand, and his memorized speech gave way to some original thoughts and ideas. They saw significant improvement in his gross motor skills and balance. He became more stable emotionally, and he even began initiating touch and asking for hugs. He also interacts much better with his brothers and sisters.

Neurofeedback is a method of training the brain to function differently. During the sessions, the therapist will attach very thin leads that conduct and transmit the electrical energy from the brain to various locations on the patient's scalp.

A special gel is used to comfortably hold the leads in place. The patient will then use brain waves to alter what is happening to a visual display on a computer screen. Through positive reinforcement, the brain learns to progressively use the desired waves, and eventually the changes in brain function may become permanent.

The 98 sessions noted above may not be typical for autism; the number of sessions needed may involve years, rather than months. This is not meant to imply that data currently exists to support results like this for everyone using neurofeedback for autism or Asperger's syndrome. However, no data exists to support the idea that it cannot.

The results experienced by this young man and his family are "miraculous" when compared to other forms of treatment. Cases like these open up an entirely new realm of possibility and hope.

Want to know more about the amazing world of Neurofeedback? Click on this link to go to Dr. Clare Albright is a psychologist and the author of a 168 page book, "Neurofeedback: Transforming Your Life with Brain Biofeedback" and can be reached at (949) 454-0996

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