Asperger Syndrome and Neurofeedback

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

April is Autism Awareness Month! Autism affects about 1 in 68 children, yet autism can be exceptionally difficult to classify as each case is very unique to the patient. Asperger syndrome, once known as a specific subtype of autism, is now classified as part of the single autism diagnosis by the recently published 2013 DSM-5 diagnostic manual.

Patients with Asperger syndrome, considered to be a higher functioning form of autism, often have deficits in motor development, social interactions, repetitive behavior, and often display a restricted range of interests. Difficulties in language or cognitive development are usually not present in Asperger cases, as compared to autism. More behaviors associated with Asperger syndrome include:

– Repetitive speech

– Obsession with a specific topic

– Limited/inappropriate social interaction

– Challenges reading nonverbal communication cues such as gestures or facial expression

– Challenges understanding emotional issues

– Challenges understanding non-literal phrasing

– Challenges understanding intent in conversation

– Uncommon or awkward movements/mannerisms

– More often discussing oneself than others

– One-sided conversations

 

It is important to note that all individuals with Asperger syndrome may display all the above behaviors, which adds to the challenge of diagnosis.

For those struggling with Asperger syndrome, social interactions can be challenging, confusing, and overwhelming to the patient. With challenges seeing the perspective of others, they may not realize what is appropriate in social context. Difficulty controlling emotional reaction is also commonly seen with Asperger patients, as they may laugh at inappropriate moments or cry very easily. Additionally, since development delay can be present in motor skills as well, children have an even tougher time socializing, as they do not have the ability to play the same way other young children play.

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Asperger syndrome is often undiagnosed until the child or adult experienced extreme difficulties in school or work. When diagnosed in adulthood, many of these patients are seeking treatment for anxiety or depression. Children are often misdiagnosed as ADHD or as having other behavioral issues. Diagnosing can be tricky, because children with Asperger’s often have notably high language development, but do not interact well with other kids due to the mental/social barrier. Inability to socialize is the key factor in diagnosing children with Asperger syndrome.

Neurofeedback can be effective in reducing or eliminating unwanted symptoms that may be disruptive in daily life. An EEG brain map is performed first to identify where the brain is having difficulties, and protocol is developed to naturally target these areas of the brain to improve overall function of the individual. Using Neurofeedback patients with Autism or Asperger’s can experience significant improvements in overall function, allowing them to live a happier and more effective life. To learn more about what neurofeedback can do for you and your family, please schedule a free in-person consultation with our director Dr. Jolene Ross. As mentioned, every individual case is different, so it is very important to develop an individual wellness plan with Dr. Ross to assess and treat all of your individual needs. Click here to schedule or call our office at 781-444-9115.

 

 

Amblyopia – Eye Turn and Neurofeedback

by Dr. Jolene Ross

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Jessica’s* eye turns way out to the side”, her mother told me.  “She is supposed to have surgery for it in a couple of months.” Jessica’s mother looked very nervous, but believed that surgery was the only possible solution for this problem.

“Give me a little time.” I replied. Her mother looked at me with a look of confusion and surprise.

“Well, when we do our QEEG’s (electronic EEG’s), we typically see the signature for this.  The brain runs the eyes and controls the eye muscles. So, with neurofeedback, we have been able to bring a wandering eye in and properly under control.”

This was particularly important for Jessica, because with impaired vision, she did not have a learning channel and was really struggling in school. With eye turn, the eyes do not work together, making reading much slower and much harder. Since vision often uses more of the brain’s resources than any other function, the brain must put a great deal of effort into vision during reading, much more when there is eye turn. That means much less of the resources will go into reading comprehension, which, in these cases, is typically low. With poor reading comprehension and greater effort required for reading, most children with eye turn avoid reading whenever possible and do not become recreational readers.

 

What is wandering eye?  What are treatment options?  Why would we want to use neurofeedback to treat this condition?

Also called Strabismus amblyopia, unequal alignment of the eyes

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Turn in – Esotropia, cross eyed

Turn out – Exotropia, wall eyed

Surgery for unequal alignment shortens the muscle to cosmetically straighten the eye, but this may not improve vision in the amblyopic eye. However, eyes often go back to being misaligned after surgery. There is a 30% to 80% success rate. Early intervention during the critical period when vision is developing further acuity can be beneficial, but only if the outcome is perfect. If not, the eyes will not work as a binocular team. Perfect means the eyes must be perfectly aligned and suppression (ignoring input from one eye) should no longer happen. If the surgery is not perfect the patient may continue to experience suppression, or the patient may see double.

Here at Advanced Neurotherapy, I have seen a number of children with eye turn. Eyes work together, which is known as binocular vision.  Binocular vision produces depth perception, and when depth perception improves clumsiness is reduced. Children stop bumping into furniture, tripping over things and bumping into other people. Given that we see the signatures on our QEEG’s, we can develop neurofeedback treatment protocol to address this problem.  In most cases, we can bring the eye in so that binocular vision is established, dramatically improving the function of the eyes in general, not just during reading.

 

Does the effect of this eye turn correction last

Image courtesy of Mister GC at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Mister GC at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I had the occasion to meet one of my eye turn clients eleven years after neurofeedback. He was doing intensive neurofeedback therapy, which means he was having sessions daily.  It was summer and he was taking sailing lessons in the morning. He stopped going to sailing lessons for a week. His mother explained that he could not go sailing because he had gotten very dizzy while sailing. By the end of the week, the dizziness had resolved and his eye was very close to being normally aligned, an improvement of approximately 30 degrees. Eleven years later, when I met him again, he was about to transfer to a very competitive college. He was a very good student, highly motivated, and quite a reader.

As for Jessica, she was not an auditory learner and, with eye turn, she was not a visual learner either, making learning a very serious challenge. By the end of her neurofeedback treatment, her eye was aligned, surgery had been averted, and she had a visual learning channel, which meant her grades went up in school. With the addition of improvements in her auditory processing capacity resulting from neurofeedback, she was much more able to learn through listening as well. We are very proud of how well Jessica has used her enhanced learning capacity.

 

*Names have been changed to protect patient privacy

Phobia and Neurofeedback

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Anxiety manifests in a variety of different disorders, including phobia, defined as unreasonable yet overwhelming fear of something. Typically, the trigger for someone who experiences phobia should pose very little or no threat to a person. However, phobia causes serious physical and emotional reactions of distress. Naturally, some fears are not uncommon in a person’s life, however if particular fears suddenly begin interfering with a person’s day-to-day life, treatment is required to reduce and/or eliminate the trigger.

Phobias are distinguished with three main categories:

Agoraphobia, or fear of open spaces, is a type of phobia that occurs when a person fears being in spaces that provoke feelings of being trapped or helpless. Previous panic attacks regarding these situations cause the phobia. People with agoraphobia can have anticipatory fear of a situation where they have no escape, a feeling experienced during previous panic attacks. Agoraphobia makes it difficult for sufferers to feel safe in any given place, which can deter people from engaging in any social situations, and, worst case, leaving their home at all.

Social phobia involves excessive self-consciousness while interacting with others and fear of humiliation. People affected by social phobia may come off as very shy, however the phobia is much deeper. Those with social phobia are consumed by fears about being rejected, heavily judged, or causing offense to others.

Specific phobias involve a specific thing or situation to which a person feels irrational levels of fear despite the low risk of actual threat. There are many different specific phobias ranging everything from fear of enclosed spaces to fearing particular animals to fearing loud noises. Additionally, it is not terribly unusual for a person suffering with phobia to fear more than one trigger.

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Symptoms of phobia include uncontrollable feelings of panic and fear when exposed to the trigger. The body will have physiological reactions to these triggers as well as psychological reactions, leading to symptoms like sweating, racing heartbeat, difficulty breathing, and more. This eventually leads to withdrawal from every day life. Children who experience phobia are prone to tantrums and clinging to parental figures.

Neurofeedback has the ability to train the brain to react calmly to phobia triggers in order to live a healthy and normal life. Safe for children and adults, the initial brain map locates where in the brain the disruption exists, and neurofeedback sessions help to correct the person’s brainwaves to decrease the frequency and duration of panic episodes. To learn more about how neurofeedback can help eliminate the fear, please call our office to schedule a free consultation with Dr. Jolene Ross. (781)444-9115

Bulimia and Neurofeedback

Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In the United States today, eating disorders have become more and more prevalent, affecting about 20 million women and 10 million men. One of the most commonly seen eating disorders is bulimia, characterized by frequent episodes of consuming large amounts of food followed by behaviors to prohibit weight gain, including vomiting and the use of laxatives. During episodes of binge eating, suffers often report feeling a loss of control. Although men do also suffer from bulimia, women are more commonly diagnosed, accounting for 80% of cases. Up to 4% of women will have bulimia in their lifetime that is considered clinically significant, and 3.9% will die from the disorder.

The eating disorder most commonly stems from self-esteem issues specifically related to body image. Bulimia is associated with various health consequences due to the stress on the body from binging and purging, including gastrointestinal, esophageal, and cardiac distress. The earlier bulimia is detected, the more likely someone will recover. Often, those suffering with bulimia are of an average weight, which may mislead loved ones into believing they do not have a problem. However, understanding the warning signs is crucial if you suspect your loved one to be suffering from bulimia. Signs include:

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  • Binge eating – Signs of binge eating may include the vanishing of large quantities of food in a short time frame, evidence being empty containers or wrappers hidden from sight.
  • Purging – If a person is taking frequent trips to the restroom following meals, this is a red flag. Any signs of vomiting or empty packages of laxatives should cause alarm. Discoloration or staining of the teeth may indicate purging as well.
  • Over-exercising with little regard for their current state or well-being, including sickness or injury.
  • Socially withdrawing from family or friends.
  • Loss of interest in commonly enjoyed activities.
  • Behaviors indicating a preoccupation with physical appearance.
  • Swelling of the checks or jaw.
  • Behavior indicative of depression.

Neurofeedback can be used to treat bulimia, as neurofeedback sessions work to improve brain function. Those struggling with bulimia can lose the powerful impulsivity to binge and subsequently purge. Neurofeedback can improve depression and anxiety as a whole, leading to a happier, calmer quality of life. To learn more about how neurofeedback can help you or your loved one, call the Advanced Neurotherapy office to schedule a free consultation with Dr. Jolene Ross. 781-444-9115.

5 Methods of Overcoming Social Phobia

Image courtesy of FrameAngel at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of FrameAngel at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For those living with social phobia, feeling extremely self-conscious in social situations occurs in almost any social interaction, leaving the person feeling uncomfortable and more likely to avoid any social situation at all costs. This behavior may seem like shyness to others, however these experiences actually induce feelings of panic for the sufferer. Social anxiety bars people from being able to enjoy life and mentally forces a person into a reclusive lifestyle. However, that is the opposite of what a person needs for happy and healthy functioning. Social interaction is necessary for human beings to thrive. Overcoming social anxiety takes time and practice along with various treatment methods. Here are five methods for overcoming social phobia.

1. Force yourself to go participate in social situations. Although this is probably the last advice a person with social phobia wants to hear, the only way to normalize social interactions is to keep engaging in them. The more a person avoids what they are afraid of, the more programmed the brain becomes to fear it. Actively placing yourself in social situations will help eliminate some of the fear just from the experiences alone.

2. Ask the people around you questions about themselves. Often times, people become anxious in social situations because they may fear the seemingly inevitable awkward silences that could occur, fearing they have nothing to contribute to the conversation. This is not an uncommon fear for anyone, even those without social phobia. One method that works very well in social situations is asking the other person or people questions about themselves. Everyone knows how to answer questions about themselves, so it fuels the conversation. Additionally, this gives you more details to start new conversations with people in the future. Focusing yourself on what the person is saying instead of focusing on your feelings on the inside will help prevent panic.

3. Practice deep breathing in social situations and when you are alone. People have a tendency to take shallow breaths in moments of stress. However, short breaths will only add to anxiety in the moment. Taking deep, full breaths will help you remain calm and will help bar anxiety from taking hold. Take the time with yourself to practice deep breathing every day to become more aware of your breath. When you are in social situations, be mindful of your breathing. Taking deep breaths will help ward off social phobia.

4. See a therapist regularly. There are a variety of treatments a therapist can employ in order to help you overcome your social phobia, including cognitive restructuring, exposure therapy, social skills training, and more. Additionally, a therapist is a safe, supportive environment for you to express yourself and get productive feedback from a professional.

5. Try neurofeedback. A natural way to retrain your brain without the use of medications, neurofeedback aims to correct the functioning of brainwaves that are not working to the best ability. This makes the brain function calmly and more effectively, significantly reducing anxiety. When the brain functions better, a person feels better emotionally! To learn more about how neurofeedback can benefit you, schedule a free in-person consultation with our director Dr. Jolene Ross.

Call to make an appointment today! 781-444-9115