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Autism or Asperger’s? Or maybe something else?

September 2nd, 2013 | Posted by admin in Uncategorized

Wendy Lalli, Marketing Director, Mind Source Solutions

According to a recent study published in the Journal of BMC Medicine, physiological differences in brain connectivity have been found between children with autism and those diagnosed as having Asperger’s syndrome. It seems that researchers found that connections between several regions in the left hemisphere were stronger in children with Aspergers’ than they were in autistic children or those described as developing normally.
In addition, the study indicated that both children with Asperger’s and those who were autistic seemed to show weaker connections than typically-developing children in the left-hemisphere of the brain called the arcuate fasciculus. This part of the brain is involved in language. The findings indicate that while Aspergers’ is related to autism, there are physical differences between the brain tissue of people with each of these conditions.

In an article on these findings published in the Huffingtonpost – “Asperger and Autism: Researchers Find Brain Differences” by Bahar Gholpour, here’s how the two conditions are described, “People with Asperger’s syndrome experience difficulties with social interaction, and can display unusual behaviors, such as repeating the same action or being excessively attached to performing certain routines. These symptoms overlap with those of autism disorder, however, children with Asperger’s tend to show language and cognitive development that is closer to that of typically developing children, compared to children with autism.”

When I read this I immediately flashed back to the times, sitting in various doctors’/therapists’/teachers’/ social workers’ offices with my husband listening to one highly-trained, usually compassionate professional after another speculate about whether our son was autistic, had Asperger’s or something else. In the end, “something else” was usually the consensus.

Jeff had a host of symptoms that looked like autism from the time he was three including a lack of speech until he was almost four. Then he became, as one of his caretakers said, “a chatterbox.” It was like all the words he didn’t or couldn’t speak for three years wanted to come out all at once. He didn’t make eye contact (a symptom of autism) but was obviously bright (a sign of Asperger’s?). And although he had trouble connecting with other children, he would impress adults with his precocious observations on everything from science and history to movies.

As soon as he was old enough to recognize that he was “different,” probably at age 3, he seemed, (like his therapists) to be looking for a category to put himself in. As if being identified as “autistic” would make him less alone. Or being known as someone with Asperger’s would give him a place to belong.

Whatever you called it, Jeff’s biggest challenge seem to be understanding the nuances of relationships as expressed by body language, facial expression, vocal intonation as well as conversation. These lacks were helped by neurofeedback which finally succeeded where other therapies didn’t. Perhaps because neurofeedback trains the person, rather than the “condition.”

Now, all grown up, Jeff still doesn’t fit neatly into a category – anymore that any of us do. The behaviors that once suggested autism or Aspergberger’s have lessened or disappeared altogether. Yet a difference remains.

Perhaps someday, the negative aspects of this difference will be reduced still further by neurofeedback training. Until then, it’s good to know that research continues to provide more insight into the mysteries of brain.

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