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Living with Aspergers: Treatment Options

written by: sharscott • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 6/27/2011

What are the treatment options of individuals with Asperger's? This article examines both traditional and non-traditional methods.

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    While there is no "cure" for Asperger's Syndrome, treatment for Asperger's addresses many of the common symptoms. Therapists, families, and individuals affected by Asperger's have a variety of protocols that have proven to be the most effective options of treatment for Asperger's. Here is a brief overview.

    Speech or Language Therapy

    For an Asperger's person, speech therapy might focus on learning the rules of conversation. The therapist would focus on explicitly teaching skills such as turn taking, waiting for a response to questions, avoiding one-sided conversations, and making eye contact when speaking or being spoken to.

    Occupational or Physical Therapy

    Some people with Asperger's have problems with coordination. Physical and occupational therapy would look to help with balance and coordination issues through providing physically challenging activities during therapy session.

    Cognitive Behavior Therapy

    Anxiety, depression, obsessive interests, and uncontrolled emotional outbursts are a few of the emotional issues associated with Asperger's. Cognitive behavior therapy teaches Aspies how to effectively combat these negative behaviors. For example, some Asperger's individuals become anxious when asked to engage in a novel activity. One method that is employed to help reduce anxiety is a gradual or progressive introduction to new experiences. The individual is exposed to the new activity or experience for short durations which are then gradually extended as he or she becomes more comfortable.

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    Medical Interventions

    Depression, sleep disorders, and anxiety are common in many individuals with Asperger's. Doctors are prescribing medications which treat the symptoms associated with these conditions. Drugs such as Aripirazole, which treats irritability; Intuniv, which is prescribed for hyperactivity and inattentiveness; and Melatonin, which is used to regulate sleep-wake cycles, are just a few of the pharmacological treatments for Asperger's. It must be reiterated that these drugs don't cure Asperger's Syndrome. Instead, they simply alleviate some of the symptoms and underlying conditions of the disorder.

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    Alternative Approaches to Treating Asperger's

    Many families in the autism community shun the use of psychotic drugs to treat symptoms of the condition, citing worries about the side effects these drugs may cause, and the ramifications associated with long term use. These families often turn to alternative therapies, such as those mentioned below.

    Vitamin Supplements

    The late researcher Dr. Bernard Rimland, of the Autism Research Institute, believed that autism is a biological disorder and not a brain disorder. Based on anecdotal evidence from parents, he began to investigate the use of Vitamin B6 in treating autism. Dr. Rimland recommended a high dose of Vitamin B6 as many of the autistic individuals he studied were found to have Vitamin B6 deficiencies. His research demonstrated that the Vitamin B6 supplement conferred many benefits for autistic individuals.

    Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

    Although controversial in some circles, this therapy advocates breathing pure oxygen while placed in a pressurized chamber. A study published in BioMed Central Pediatrics, conducted by Rossignol and others, found that children given H.B.O. during the trial showed improvement in eye contact, and reduced stereotyped behavior, verbal skills, and receptive language skills. Other researchers doubted if Rossignol's findings were valid due to the small number of subjects tested and other issues raised by the study.

    Chiropractic Adjustment/ Deep Tissue Massage

    There has been anecdotal evidence from parents which attest to the usefulness of chiropractic adjustments for autistic individuals. Parents and chiropractors claim some autistic children suffer from "chiropractic sublauxation which could lead to neurological interference." In 2006 a British study conducted by the Newbury Chiropractic Centre, examined the effectiveness of clinical chiropractic treatments for autism. Researchers Jennings and Barker stated that although many chiropractors who worked with autistic children claimed improvement by their patients with eye contact, speech, and other autistic symptoms, there was little literature to substantiate these statements.

    Special Diets

    In recent years, gluten-free and casein-free food diets have been advocated as effective treatments for autism by both nutrition specialists and parents alike. The diet is based on the premise that autism is caused by gastrointestinal issues or acerbated by them. By removing foods prepared or derived from wheat or dairy products, proponents believe an autistic individual will experience the total elimination or lessening of behavioral and physical symptoms associated with ASD.

    The Final Analysis

    Data is still being gathered on the effectiveness of certain therapies and treatment for Asperger's or autism. For this reason, parents should consult a professional before starting any program.

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    Sources:

    Asperger's Syndrome, Mayo Clinic staff, myoclinic.org., November 18, 2010.

    Autism Nutrition, Autism Research Institute, autismandnutrition.com 2011.

    Hyperbaric Oxygen for Autism? not so fast, Albietz, Joe randi.org, March 29, 2009.

    Autism : A Chiropractic Perspective, Jennings, Jane and Martina Barker, Clinical Chiropractic 2006 (Mar) 9 :1 6-10.

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