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Facts about Asperger's Therapy

written by: sharscott • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 7/29/2011

Asperger's therapy includes both traditional and nontraditional approaches. Cognitive and behavior therapy, speech therapy, vitamin supplements, and special diets are just a few. Here are a few facts about Asperger's therapy.

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    Traditional Asperger's Therapy

    Asperger's therapy or treatments address three main issues or symptoms. These are: communication, repetitive behaviors, and physical coordination. Here are some interesting facts about the therapies for these three areas.

    Communication Therapy Facts

    Unlike their other autistic counterparts, most Asperger's individuals have few problems with verbal communication. They maintain or retain their ability to speak from childhood.When an Asperger's person receives communication therapy (i.e. speech therapy) is it usually related to an inability to understand or use nonverbal cues. An Asperger's person may have to be explicitly taught how to have a conversation, the meanings of particular body posture (folded arms, hands on hips), and how to interpret facial expressions. Few Aspies need to rely on assistive devices, picture exchange communication systems(pecs), sign language. or other forms of communication. They can easily verbalize their wants and needs.

    Another common problem for Asperger's persons with communication issues is the use of monotone or irregular speech patterns. Speech therapy will attempt to teach the individual how to use a more expressive tone when speaking.

    A large majority of people on the autism spectrum have great difficulty in learning to speak or use expressive language. Aspies in this regard have no deficiency.

    Addressing Repetitive Behaviors

    A 2007 study published in Child Psychiatry and Human Development, found that there was no difference in the severity or amount of repetitive behaviors in those with Asperger's or high functioning autism. All autistic persons exhibit repetitive behaviors. These include body rocking, hand flapping, spinning, repeating, and ordering.

    Repetitive behaviors greatly interfere with an Aspie's ability to socialize. These often bizarre rituals and behaviors tend to isolate an Asperger's person.

    Interestingly, the use of anti-psychotic medications may help reduce (in a small number of cases, eliminate) these behaviors. Here are a few medications used to treat repetitive behaviors:

    • SSRI's (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors
    • Olanzapine
    • Naltraxone

    Although these medications may be effective for some individuals they also come with side effects such as increased appetite,weight gain, increased blood sugar, increase in cholesterol, and drowsiness. Some practitioners and patients worry about what may occur with prolonged use of these drugs. Plus it must be noted that these medications only address secondary symptoms associated with Asperger's and not the disorder itself.

    in addition to medication, another approach to treating repetitive behaviors is through cognitive therapy. This therapy seeks to teach appropriate responses instead of engaging In a repetitive behavior. An example of this approach would be teaching a person who engages in hand flapping how to identify triggers for the behavior (anxiety, emotional upset) and using a more appropriate behavior (like squeezing a small stress ball) when feeling anxious or upset.

    Coordination and Sensory Integration Therapy

    When most people hear about individuals receiving physical or occupational therapy, they assume it is related to a physical injury or disability.

    Some Asperger's persons also need physical or occupational therapy. They have problems with balance or coordination. Some Aspies are very clumsy and could cause serious harm to themselves. In physical therapy an Asperger's person might be asked to practice walking heel to toe on a raised surface, taught to play catch to improve hand eye coordination, complete puzzles, or even learn how to ride a bike.

    Most people take learning these everyday activities for granted, For an Asperger's person, these may be difficult skills which may take a good deal of time to learn.

    It has been reported that 8 out of 10 Aspies have problems with sensory input. Problems with sensory input may cause balance issues, sensitivity to touch, and the inability to judge body position in space.

    For example many autistic people are sensitive to noise. They may cover their ears or become extremely agitated. Others may feel disconnected from their bodies. Some Aspies may not like to be touched. Sensory integration therapy can help an Aspie who is sensitive to noise learn to filter out background noises. Sensory therapy may use weighted vests, spinning, or swinging games to help an Aspie discern body position, And "touch therapy" may be utilized to gradually desensitize a person who dislikes coming in contact with certain fabrics or objects.

    All of these are traditional Asperger's therapy which have been shown to be very effective for many individuals.

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    Alternative Therapies

    Many parents and Aspies know that although traditional Asperger's therapy may be effective for most individuals, they don't work for all. In response they have begun experimenting with alternative treatments.

    Chiropractic Adjustment

    Chiropractic adjustment has grown in popularity in the last few years. Anecdotal claims state it improves eye contact, reduces sensory issues, and even improves language development.1

    Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments

    Little research exists on the efficacy (or safety) of this method. Proponents claim it improves cognitive functioning and other symptoms.2

    Gluten Free Diets

    Some organizations such as Autism Research Institure have created protocols for "curing" autism which includes a gluten free diet. Research is currently being conducted to establish if these diets confer any benefits.3

    Vitamin Supplements

    There has been research which demonstrates that some autistic persons are deficient in several key vitamins such as B6 and magnesium. Vitamin supplement use espouses taking of large doses of certain key vitamins which are purported to improve cognition.

    Get the Facts

    As with any therapy whether it be traditional or alternative, a doctor should be first be consulted.

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    Sources:

    1Hyperbaric Oxygen for Autism? Not so Fast, Albietz, Joe randi.org, March 29, 2009.

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

    3"Autism is Treatable", Autism Research Institute, http://legacy.autism.com/treatable/index.htm

    "Benefits of Occupational Therapy for Autism", http://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/tc/aspergers-syndrome-treatment-overview, accessed July 15,2011

    "Asperger's Syndrome Fact Sheet" www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/aspergers accesses July 17, 2011

    "A Comparison of Repetitive Behaviors in Aspergers Disorder and High Functioning Autism", Cuccaro, ML , Nations, L., Child Psychiatry and Human Development, r. 2007, 37 (4) 347-60. accessed at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17410426