Asperger Syndrome Treatment and Intervention
Effective Treatment for Asperger's Without Drugs
Founded in 1980, the Drake Institute of Behavioral Medicine has developed an extraordinary Asperger's treatment center that helps patients from all over the United States and abroad. Our clinical treatment process relies on treating Asperger’s patients with a neuroscience-based technology called neurofeedback treatment. In 2013, the National Geographic Channel selected Dr. David Velkoff, Medical Director of the Drake Institute, to serve as their medical consultant for a special documentary on Autism.
What is Asperger's Syndrome?
Asperger's syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder named after the Austrian pediatrician, Dr. Hans Asperger. In 1944, Dr. Asperger first described children who noticeably lacked nonverbal communication skills, did not show empathy, and were physically clumsy. For years, Asperger’s Syndrome or Asperger’s Disorder was classified asone of the Autism Spectrum Disorders, but in 2013 the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), published by the American Psychiatric Association, eliminated the diagnoses of Asperger’s, autism and PDD-NOS merging these disorders into a single disorder called Autism spectrum disorder. However, the World Health Organization continues to define or categorize Asperger's syndrome as a separate disorder of the Autism spectrum disorders.
At the Drake Institute, we still find the former diagnosis of Asperger’s to be an accurate description of a specific set of characteristics in some patients with an Autism spectrum disorder. The symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome are milder than those of Autism. Unlike in Autism, there is no delay in language development in Asperger’s. In addition, patients with Asperger’s Syndrome frequently have good cognitive skills and may be highly intelligent or even gifted. The diagnosis is frequently made between the ages of 4 and 11 years old, and may be mistakenly first diagnosed as ADHD. Sometimes, undiagnosed adult patients with Asperger’s will get diagnosed when they are seeking treatment for anxiety and/or depression.
Signs and Symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome:
- Impaired social interaction and nonverbal communication
- Restricted Interests
- Repetitive Behaviors
Though Asperger’s patients typically don’t exhibit a language delay, their language usage may frequently be atypical. They can be verbose, pedantic or lecture-like, almost like they’re delivering a monologue and sometimes talking excessively loud without being aware of their behavior.
Sometimes people with Asperger’s can lack eye contact and have trouble fully reading the nuances of facial expressions, emotional cues or body language of the people they’re interacting with, making it difficult for them to connect with other people in a meaningful way. Frequently, this results in misreading other people’s intention, displaying an inability to understand another person’s viewpoint, and being unable to put themselves “in someone else’s shoes”.
A child or adolescent with Asperger’s sometimes is mocked or made fun of by others, without even realizing that this is occurring. Because they are not able to fully process nonverbal social cues, they can be misperceived or inaccurately labeled as "lacking empathy, insensitive, or cold". It is not that they lack the capacity for empathy, but that they lack the ability to fully detect and understand another person’s emotional state in the first place.
When treating Asperger’s patients at our clinic, we commonly see them begin to show empathy at levels that were not present before. These results are generated by retraining the Asperger’s patient’s brain networks to process nonverbal social cues, allowing them to develop and stabilize more optimal brain functioning.
Another symptom of Asperger’s is the tendency to become obsessed and over-focused on a single topic of narrow interest, such as the weather or a movie, which ends up dominating social interactions. Because of their deficits in picking up on nonverbal social cues, they may talk non-stop about this topic to others, being completely unaware or even oblivious that the other person is not interested nor engaged with them in their one-sided conversation.
In addition, due to certain networks in the brain misfiring or not functioning in synchrony, the individual with Asperger’s syndrome can have difficulty understanding humor or metaphors, tending to interpret things literally or as "black or white".
For all of the reasons just mentioned, it is very difficult for the patient with Asperger’s to develop friendships with children in their own age group. As they become older children or adolescents, they can be teased, ostracized, and/or bullied. As a result, those with Asperger’s are at increased risk for social rejection, anxiety and depression.
As a person with Asperger’s becomes older and finds himself or herself unable to fully sense or understand another person's intention towards them, symptoms can also lead to significant insecurity and anxiety. With their functional impairment in social communication, it is almost as if "they are in a foreign country and do not understand that foreign language". Unfortunately, this tends to lead to even more anxiety.
As adolescents, people with Asperger’s typically have trouble keeping up with their normally developing peers. In adolescence, the social demands become greater and the Asperger’s patient often does not yet have the "hard wiring" for normal social understanding and communication.
As they become adults, if they were not successfully treated when growing up, they may continue to have functional impairments in social and romantic relationships. The outside world will commonly misunderstand their impaired social communication as being voluntary, without understanding that it is due to neurophysiologic limitations. Often times, this leads other people to mistakenly view the Asperger’s individual as intentionally insensitive, weird, cold, or without empathy.
At the same time, the patient with Asperger’s can be in significant emotional pain from social isolation or rejection from peers. It can feel like "you are on the outside looking in and cannot get in".
Though it is not part of the former diagnostic criteria of Asperger’s, many patients with Asperger’s syndrome may also exhibit sleep difficulties and be physically awkward or clumsy.
Brain Mapping – Improving Diagnosis & Asperger’s Treatment:
To achieve maximum improvement from Asperger’s therapy, we implement treatment that links symptoms to specific dysregulation patterns in the brain of each patient.
The Drake Institute utilizes breakthroughs in the neurosciences and quantitative EEG brain mapping technology to create "a window into brain functioning" in order to be able to identify specific regions and networks in the brain where dysregulation generates symptoms.
Once we’ve identified which regions and networks need improvement, we utilize neurofeedback (EEG biofeedback) treatment which enables the patient to improve and stabilize these networks, improving the brain’s function and efficiency, resulting in a reduction or resolution of symptoms.
By brain mapping Asperger’s patients, the Drake Institute is able to identify the dysregulated networks responsible for:
- Facial recognition
- Analyzing facial emotions
- Understanding the intentions of others
- Seeing another person's cognitive/emotional perspective
- Reading the feelings of others and understanding how your behavior or spoken words affect them
If any of these brain networks are not activating or are dysregulated with inefficient and slower speed of processing information, then the person will experience functional deficits and symptoms.
Once we’ve identified under-performing brain regions and networks, we’re able to selectively target them via neurofeedback treatment to improve their functioning.
For example, if the right posterior area of the brain (the right parietal-temporal region) is dysregulated or in a disturbed state of instability, then the patient is likely to have trouble reading or processing nonverbal social cues.
By performing neurofeedback training/treatment, the brain can reorganize and create/develop a new homeostasis or balance where the patient’s brain networks are more stabilized and functioning together in a more coherent manner, generating significant behavioral improvement.
For example, treatment often produces improvements in the patient’s:
- Awareness of the social environment
- Understanding other people's feelings and intentions
- Ability to socially connect and communicate with people in a reciprocal way
- Emotional stability, well-being, and self-esteem
When it comes to providing effective treatment for Asperger’s, the most important part of the process is linking unwanted symptoms with specific brain networks that are disturbed, dysregulated or under-functioning.
The Drake Institute’s years of experience helping Asperger’s patients has allowed us to refine and advance our clinical treatment process, resulting in marked improvement for approximately 80% of our Asperger’s patients.
To get the help that you or a loved one needs, call us now at 800-700-4233 to schedule your screening consultation at no charge.