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.

 

 

Grief and Neurofeedback: Coping with Loss

ID-10055137One of the most difficult life experiences every person will encounter is coping with the death of a loved one. Death triggers emotional grief that may be so intense and consuming that even the thought of living life normally seems absolutely impossible. There is no right way to grieve, and everyone grieves in their own unique ways. While it is perfectly natural to be sad after losing a loved one, many times grief can lead to depression or make already existing anxiety and/or depression substantially worse.

Not everyone who grieves will become depressed as a result, however grief can be a major trigger, particularly for those who are more prone to depression or have a history of depression. Everyone experiences varied symptoms of grief, however many of these symptoms are similar to those of depression, including debilitating sadness, changes in sleep habits, appetite loss or gain, and losing interest in activities once enjoyed. Grief typically affects people in waves with symptoms fluctuating through time and eventually lessening. However, when grief becomes so intense that is starts interfering with a person’s ability to live their life normally for an extended period following a death, treatment may be necessary.

Symptoms of grief should improve over time, and not worsen. If a person experiences any of the following symptoms after a loved one passes away and these symptoms only worsen over time, this person may be suffering from grief-induced depression:

Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  • Constantly thinking/longing for the loved one who passed
  • Difficulty focusing on anything other than sad thoughts
  • Difficulty accepting loss
  • Difficulty remembering good times/positive memories of loved one
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feeling as though life has no meaning
  • Difficulty completing normal, every day tasks
  • Becoming unable to take care of oneself physically
  • Difficulty trusting others, even those once trusted

Neurofeedback works to calm the brain to help improve functioning. When the brain is functioning more calmly, the person feels less overwhelmed and more capable of functioning normally in their every day lives.

In addition to neurofeedback, therapy is also recommended for people struggling to accept the loss of a loved one. Click here to set up a free consultation with our director Dr. Jolene Ross to develop a plan unique to your situation.

Panic Attacks and Neurofeedback

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

While it is normal to feel anxiety during certain stressful life situations, anxiety disorders affect a person on a daily basis, causing anxiety and fear when there may not be an obvious cause or reason. Panic disorder refers to someone who’s fear response is not functioning the way it normally should, causing physiological symptoms accompanied by intense anxiety.

One of the most notable symptoms of panic disorder is the panic attack, a sudden, overwhelming rush of panic and fear that causes physical responses as well as uncontrolled emotional distress leaving the sufferer confused, fearful, and powerless. While panic attacks vary in symptoms and length, panic attacks usually come on quickly and last an average of ten minutes. Sometimes, panic attacks have a direct, obvious cause while other panic attacks seem to be triggered out of the blue, leaving the sufferer confused in addition to fearful as they occur. Panic attacks can have an extremely negative impact on a person’s daily functioning as the person does not know when the next attack will strike, leaving them feeling powerless to their own mind and body.

 

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

Symptoms of panic attacks may include:

– Difficulty breathing/shortness of breath

– Increased heart rate

– Dizziness

– Shaking/trembling

– Hypersensitivity to being touched

– Hypersensitivity to noise

– Sweating

– Crying

– Immense fear/dread

 

Panic disorder is often caused by abnormalities in brain function, which triggers the body’s “fight or flight” response at unnecessary moments. This can be caused by traumatic life events that have changed the brain’s strategy of coping or simply due to a genetic predisposition. Stressful life events, such as sudden death of a loved one, can also trigger panic attacks, which have the potential to recur and evolve into panic disorder. Additionally, substance abuse can interfere with the brain’s ability to process stress and anxiety.

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

Neurofeedback targets the parts of the brain at the cause of this reaction in an effort to retrain the brain to function more efficiently so the “fight or flight” response is not triggered. The brain learns how to cope with anxiety and fear appropriately during neurofeedback sessions resulting in an overall decrease in anxiety, mood improvement, and increase in daily function.

Neurofeedback can help you calm the struggle so you can live with reduced emotional distress caused by panic disorder. Click here to set up a free consultation with our director Dr. Jolene Ross.

Symptoms of Dyslexia and Neurofeedback

Image courtesy of Phaitoon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Phaitoon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Diagnosing a child with a learning disability can be difficult considering all children learn at their own pace. However, all parents should be keeping a close eye on their children’s studies and grades to examine if they are exhibiting symptoms indicative of a learning disability. In fact, fifteen to twenty percent of the population has a reading disability. Dyslexia is a learning disability affecting both oral and written language abilities, affecting both males and females equally. Children inherit genetic links, so if you have a learning disability, it is not unlikely your child may as well.

Children who struggle with dyslexia are often diagnosed by the symptoms they have displayed both at home and/or in the classroom. Though symptoms displayed from young ages persist throughout life, dyslexia is symptomatic in different ways at different ages throughout the child’s life.

Signs of Dyslexia

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

Preschool – Difficulties with:

  • Learning the ability to talk
  • Adding vocabulary
  • Pronunciation
  • Recalling the right words
  • Learning the alphabet
  • Spelling
  • Identifying colors, shapes, days of the week by name
  • Following directions with steps
  • Telling stories correctly
  • Separating sounds in words

Kindergarten-Fifth Grade – Difficulties with:

  • Consistent reading and spelling mistakes
  • Letter reversals, such as confusing d for b
  • Word reversals, such as top for pot
  • Inversions, such as u and n
  • Transpositions, such as felt and left
  • Substitutions, such as house and home
  • Reading isolated single words
  • Connecting letters to sounds
  • Learning to tell time
  • Planning

    Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
    Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  • Confusing small words like at/to or does/goes
  • Remembering facts
  • Learning new skills
  • Relying too much on memorization without comprehension
  • Impulsivity

Middle School – Difficulties with:

  • Finishing homework that requires reading in a timely manner
  • Reading in front of class
  • Stammering
  • Replacing similar sounding words despite different meanings, such as distinct and extinct
  • Spelling, grammar, and punctuation
  • Expressing ideas in an organized fashion

High School – Difficulties with:

  • Not understanding puns or hidden meanings
  • Not understanding punch lines to jokes
  • Arguing a point, not being able to support an argument
  • Getting to the point of a story or argument
  • Trouble reading charts and graphs
  • Confusing left and right

 

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

If children who have dyslexia are not treated within the first few years of development (up until Kindergarten or first grade), they will see significantly more problems in learning to read grade level appropriate material throughout their life. In fact, 74% of children who read poorly in the third grade remain poor readers until ninth grade.

Neurofeedback trains the brain to work efficiently, improving executive functions and other necessary skills needed to read and comprehend material. If you suspect your child may have a reading disability such as dyslexia, call the office to schedule a free consultation with director Dr. Jolene Ross (781-444-9115). The sooner a person is able to overcome a learning disability, the more success a person will see throughout their lives!

Oppositional Defiant Disorder: Symptoms of ODD

Image courtesy of Clare Bloomfield at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Clare Bloomfield at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Oppositional defiant disorder, or ODD, is a behavioral disorder in children that can be difficult to identify for many parents. Children may be strong-willed or emotional without actually having ODD because it can be normal for children to behave in ways that oppose their parental figures. Though signs typically develop during preschool, there are times when ODD may develop later and cause significant issues related to family, school, work, and socialization.

To be diagnosed with ODD, at least four symptoms must occur from the following categories:

  • Moodiness, both angry and/or irritable
    • Losing temper
    • Easily annoyed by others
    • Resentful
  • Defiant behaviors and argumentative speech
    • Arguing with authority figures
    • Deliberately defying rules or requests by authority
    • Purposely annoys people
    • Places blame on others for their own mistakes
  • Vindictive behaviors
    • Spitefulness (must be recorded happening at least twice within a six month period)

These symptoms must occur with at least one other person who is not a sibling, causing significant problems at school, home, or other places frequented by the child. These symptoms must last for at least six months and have no relation to other mental health issues, such as depression. In some cases, symptoms are first seen occurring in the home and in time begin happening in other settings. Mild ODD means the symptoms occurring in only one setting. Moderate ODD occurs in two settings and severe in three or more.

Neurofeedback naturally trains the brain to function calmly and more efficiently. Those with oppositional defiant disorder will experience direct improvements in mood, which will decrease oppositional, impulsive, and/or aggressive behavior. Patients may also notice academic improvement in school as a result of neurofeedback because of these improvements combined with improved executive functions such as attention, focus, and memory. Learn more about how neurofeedback can help your child’s individual, unique case by scheduling a free consultation with our Dr. Jolene Ross. Click here to contact our office.