Approaches that help autism are widely varied and individualized. Autistic symptoms are also unique to the individual, although they tend to fall into clusters or patterns. So where does it all come together? We know that all of these approaches affect the autistic brain, and most of the symptoms emerge from the brain as a result of some sort of malfunction.
So, it makes sense to look at methods that can improve the functioning of the brain to see if they can help improve autistic issues. One group of methods that has been gaining popularity recently is brainwave biofeedback or neurofeedback.
Since the mid-1950s, scientists have been changing the way that the brain functions by teaching people how to modify the small electric voltages that the brain produces.
They have detected the changes in the voltage patterns—the EEG (electroencephalogram)—and used better and better methods to pick out patterns of size and/or frequency of the EEG to show to the person being measured and ask them to make intentional changes in their brain function. The clinicians took note of what kinds of changes in the person’s feelings, brain state, or function went along with this biofeedback training, over a few or many sessions.
This is now called neurofeedback training, neurotherapy, or sometimes neurovideofeedback training, when the output of the filtered brainwaves actually starts or changes the size or brightness of a video being played on the PC to keep the trainee interested. The output can also change the volume or pitch of the sound being created by the PC’s speaker to give more informative feedback to the trainee and help him steer his brain toward better functioning.
There are several other approaches to using neurofeedback, and every practitioner is slightly different as well. There are major differences between neurotherapists (and clinicians with additional skills) in the sites on the head the EEG is obtained from and how it is analyzed. Some therapists use many sites, others few.
The bottom-line question for many parents is how much progress they are likely to see in how many sessions. There are published studies that indicate very substantial progress in 18 sessions by combining simple training for enhancing single-pointed focus and stabilizing the brain’s system for understanding and reacting to events which also improves positive feelings and encourages participation in the sessions. Other methods are much slower, often taking over 200 sessions, even with very sophisticated equipment.
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