Neurofeedback for Autism Spectrum & Other Neuroatypical Challenges in Katy, Texas & Houston
Are you concerned about your child, teenager, or young adult as they don't seem to be accepted socially?
Have you found yourself feeling frustrated as sometimes even the simple things can create significant problems (then feel guilty afterwards)?
Have you been looking for a way to help your child, teenager, or young adult overcome these challenges but nothing seems to be helping?
Autism, Neuroatpyical, & Neurodiversity: The Spectrum in Children, Teens, & Young Adults
It can be so very challenging as a parent of a child, teenager, or young adult who falls somewhere "on the spectrum". We want nothing more than our kids to fit in, to be accepted, and to socially succeed. And when they don't, it can be heartbreaking.
It can also be challenging as a parent to fully understand where on this "spectrum" your child falls. Being able to fully understand where they are at can provide clear guidance and direction on what can help. And as parents of kids on the spectrum, we want nothing more than to help.
Table of Contents
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Symptoms of Autism
The rates of children, teens, and young adult being diagnosed on the autism spectrum has increased significantly over the years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 150 kids were diagnosed being on the autism spectrum. That number jumped to 1 in 44 in 2018.
While theories abound as to why we are experiencing this increase in Autism Spectrum Disorders, there has yet to be a clear indicator of whey this is occurring and what we can do to prevent it. In the meantime, there are a variety of effective treatment approaches that can help.
While everyone experiences autism differently, there are some very common symptoms that are present in autism spectrum and neuroatypical challenges.
Symptoms of autism from the Mayo Clinic can include:
Difficulty in Communication and Social Interactions
Fails to respond to their name or appears not to hear you.
Resists physical interactions, prefers to play alone, and retreats into their own inner world.
Difficulty in making and/or maintaining eye contact.
Lacks facial expressions.
Difficulty in starting a conversation or maintain conversations.
Singsong voice when speaking or robot like speech.
Doesn't seem to understand simple questions or directions.
Doesn't express emotions and appears unaware of others' feelings.
May be passive, aggressive, or disruptive in social interactions.
Difficulty understanding nonverbal social cues like facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, etc.
Atypical Patterns of Behavior
Rocks, spins, or hand flapping.
Develops specific routines or rituals and becomes upset at the slightest change.
Difficulty with motor coordination and may come across as clumsy.
Sensitive to light, touch, sound or may be able indifferent to pain or temperature.
Fixates on an object or activity with higher than typical intensity and focus.
Specific food preferences or may be sensitive to food texture.
Bottom Up VS. Top Down Approaches in Autism Therapy
Like all emotional and/or behavioral challenges, Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) originate in the brain. There are various effective therapy approaches for autism that would be considered "bottom up" approachess.
Autism Spectrum Disorders are complicated neurological challenges that often require more than one approach based on the need. Below are the bottom up approaches and their success rates based on our research:
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) with a 90% success rate.
Play Therapy with 58% success rate,
Relationship Development Intervention (RDI),
(according to a research article, RDI is a promising approach with more research needed)
(According to Healthline, success rates vary depending on the type of speech issue).
(According to a study from the Department of Occupational Therapy at Colorado State University, Equine Therapy shows promising results but further research is needed).
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with a 78% success rate,
(According to the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Music Therapy for Autism is a promising however they suggest more research is needed), and
(According to a study by the Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, while sensory integration therapy has had some success, more research is needed).
Neurofeedback for autism at Katy Teen & Family Counseling has seen about a 95% success rate based on client feedbcak in moderate to significant gains.
Neurofeedback can be a very effective approach in helping to alleviate symptoms and improve daily functioning, social interactions, and other benefits. And neurofeedback is considered a "top down" approach to autism therapy.
So, what's the difference between a "bottom up" and a "top down" approach to therapy for autism and why does it matter?
We'll take the very effective "bottom up" therapy for autism, Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) and take a look at neurofeedback for autism to illustrate the difference.
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA): A Bottom Up Approach in Therapy for Autism
Many therapy approaches for autism, like Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) can be very effective in helping improve the symptoms associated with autism.
Applied Behavioral Analysis is designed to help:
Increase social skills.
Improve expressive and receptive communication effectiveness.
Improve hygiene and self-care,
Help teach cooperative behavior, and
Decrease undesirable behaviors.
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is what is called a "bottom up" approach in treating the symptoms of autism. The ABA therapist gathers information on the specific symptoms and challenges that the child, teen, or young adult is experiencing.
The ABA therapist co-creates a treatment plan based on those reported symptoms that is designed to help improve the symptoms. They then start to implement the behavioral treatment plan with the child, teen, or young adult and the parents.
As the child, teen, or young adult practice these skills repetitively, and are positively reinforced for improvement in improvement in skills, over time the brain starts to change. The brain recognizes the rewards and new pathways start to be created. These new pathways in the brain develop habits in behavior that can continue after ABA therapy ends.
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) relies on the reported symptoms from the child, teen, or young adult and parent. Based on the reported symptoms, they use research supported approaches in treating those symptoms through behavioral reinforcement strategies.
This approach to therapy for autism (and the others listed above) treats the autism at its origin -- the brain. They start at the bottom (with the symptoms) then works its way up to the top (the brain) through behavioral reinforcement strategies.
Neurofeedback for Autism: A Top Down Approach in Therapy for Autism
Just like other autism therapy approaches, neurofeedback can help improve symptoms related to autism. However, with neurofeedback for autism, neurofeedback starts at the top (the brain) and begins from the start to train the brain to help improve the symptoms (the bottom).
Neurofeedback is a safe, comfortable, and non-invasive approach in autism treatment. Neurofeedback for autism records the brain's electrical signals through placing sensors on the child, teen, or young adults head. This is done by placing a cap on the person's head and the cap looks like a swimmer's cap. Yet this cap has 19 sensors embedded into the cap that record the brain's performance.
The neurofeedback therapist then creates a 2D and 3D brain map of the person's brain performance. This is done by comparing the person's brain performance to a normative database of other brain maps. The normative database contains brain maps of other persons the same age and gender who are high performers and do not have autism spectrum challenges.
From this brain map, a training protocol is created and neurofeedback training for autism begins. With neurofeedback compared to other approaches in autism therapy, we look at the brain's performance and can identify the regions of the brain that are over/under performing that are causing the symptoms to present themselves.
Key Differences Between Neurofeedback for Autism & Other Autism Therapy Approaches
There is not a "once size fits all" approach in autism treatment. It would simplify things so much and make children, teen, young adults, and parents lives much easier when it comes to helping our kids.
And what success looks like for one child, teen, or young adult with autism my look different than another. Because of the various and specific challenges that autism presents between clients, the neurofeedback therapist, client, and parents will identify what they want success to look like.
Approaches for treatment for autism such as ABA therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and others are all very effective approaches in therapy for autism or promising approaches to treating autism. They are simply different approaches from neurofeedback in accomplishing the same goals.
There are key differences between these approaches and neurofeedback:
Bottom Up Autism Therapy Approaches
A key difference in bottom down approaches to autism treatment and neurofeedback is the participation level of the child, teen, or young adult. Bottom down approaches require the person receiving the therapy to:
Regularly engage in a productive way with the autism therapist,
Have insight into the challenges and how they are affecting their life,
Motivation and willingness to practice the skills taught in session, and
Motivation and willingness to practice specific skills between sessions.
Success rates for the bottom up approaches vary from 58% to 90% (ABA). Success in bottom up also largely depends on the child, teen, young adult, and parent's participation level.
Top Down Neurofeedback for Autism
With neurofeedback, all that is required is that the child, teen, or young adult be able to:
Sit relatively still in a comfortable chair,
Be able to focus on a T.V. show or video game for 30-40 minutes at a time,
Practice being relaxed while in neurofeedback training,
Get the recommended amount of sleep for the person's age, and
Limit caffeine intake the day of the neurofeedback session.
Success rates based on client feedback for neurofeedback are about 95% for moderate to significant gains. Success in neurofeedback also does not depend on the child, teen, young adult, or parent's participation level in between therapy sessions. All that is required is for them to show up for their sessions and do the above during the session.
Neurofeedback for Autism: How do You Train the Brain?
The brain is a sensory organ in our body that seeks out patterns in the environment. The brain at an unconscious level analyzes these patterns and tries to control them. This is a very important element for basic daily decisions as well as for our survival.
If you are in the forest and you hear something stomping through the woods with twigs breaking and leaves shuffling, your brain is taking in the sensory information from the environment. It does this to determine whether or not it needs to respond with flight or fight response to protect you.
The stomping in the forest very well could be a bear or mountain lion or your friend who is simply collecting firewood around camp.
Our brains are always taking in sensory information from the environment. It's also seeking balance in the brain. When the brain does not have balance, it tells us through emotional or behavioral symptoms that something is "unbalanced" in our brain.
Neurofeedback uses the brain's drive in sensory seeking to help train the brain to perform differently and at optimal levels.
Let's Take a Look at How Your Brain is Functioning
The first thing we do after identifying the specific symptoms we would like to improve is to record your brain's performance. We do this by placing a cap that has 19 sensors embedded and have you remain relatively still while we record 10 minutes of your brain's performance.
The sensors record the brain's electrical impulses which is how our brain communicates. How our brain communicates can tell us a lot of how our brain is performing.
Once we have this initial baseline, we compare that to a normative database of other children, teens, or young adults who are the same gender and age. This normative database are brain maps of those who are high performers who do not have the symptoms you are working on to improve.
We then create your own 2D and 3D brain map. These brain maps identify what areas of the brain are over or under performing (where the imbalance is located in the brain).
Below are examples of 2D and 3D brain maps that were created at Katy Teen & Family Counseling using sophisticated software from Neuroguide
Now That We Know, Let's Create a Training Protocol & Start Training the Brain
Now that the neurofeedback therapist has identified what regions of your brain are over or under performing and how they relate to your symptoms of autism, a training protocol can be created. This training protocol is individualized to your brain's needs in helping to alleviate the symptoms.
Once a training protocol is created and selected, the neurofeedback therapist begins brain training. Brain training typically starts on the second or third session.
To start, the child, teen, or young adult sits in front of a T.V. screen in a very comfortable chair. The ideal state for the brain to learn is when the body is relaxed.
While they are sitting in the chair, the neurofeedback therapist places the cap on their head. This is the cap that has 19 sensors that monitors the brains performance in real time.
Once the cap is in place, the neurofeedback therapists uses sophisticated software to monitor the training session. We use two platforms to help train the brain: T.V. shows or video games.
Using T.V. Shows as the Training Vehicle for Neurofeedback for Autism
The principle behind using the T.V. show or using the video game is the same. While the neurofeedback therapist is monitoring the brain's performance in real time, they start the T.V. show.
This show can't be a stimulating or suspenseful show and we usually use nature shows or cartoons. However, there are other live action shows that have been appropriate for neurofeedback as well for teens and young adults.
When the brain is performing to in a way that would create new pathways to reduce or eliminate the symptoms, the signal from the software is sent to the T.V. and the child, teen, or young adult are able to see and hear what is on the screen. The brain recognizes this as a reward.
When the brain is performing that would reinforce old pathways in the brain that would continue the symptoms, the child, teen, or young adult is not able to see or hear what is on the screen. We don't want to reinforce the current brain pathways that are creating the symptoms.
Through this process of back and forth, the brain starts to pick up on the patterns and the rewards of when they can hear and see what is on the screen. Over time, the brain starts to change how it performs and new pathways are created in the brain.
These new pathways allow the reduction or elimination of symptoms.
Using Video Games as the Training Vehicle for Neurofeedback for Autism
The video game operates with the same principle. Except with the video game, when the child, teen, or young adult's brain is performing in a manner that would create the new pathways that would decrease or eliminate the symptoms, they get to control the avatar on the screen.
There are also audible sounds that occur when the brain is performing in the way we want it to. Combined with being able to control the avatar and simultaneously receiving the audible cues, this helps reinforce the brain through rewards to create new, healthier pathways in the brain.
When their brain returns to performing that would reinforce the current pathways that are creating the symptoms, they cannot control the avatar on the screen and there is no audible sound.
Below is a screenshot of one of the video games that one or our neurofeedback therapists uses with his clients. This game is created specifically for neurofeedback training by Zukor and is called Zukor Air.
The point of this game is to have the dragon fly through the circles. When the dragon flies through the circles, you earn points. The more points you earn the more options in avatar selection you receive.
How Long is Each Session & How Many Sessions Does Neurofeedback for Autism Typically Take?
Neurofeedback sessions are typically 50-60 minutes in length in total. Part of the session is placing the cap on the child, teen, or young adult.
The person receives between 30-40 minutes of neurofeedback training for autism per session. After each session, the neurofeedback therapist washes each cap.
On average, it takes approximately 40 sessions of neurofeedback to achieve long term results. Because we are training the brain, neurofeedback requires, at minimum, two sessions per week.
Depending on the severity or intensity of the symptoms of autism, it may take more than 40 sessions to help you meet the goals in improving or eliminating symptoms.
Ideal Approach to Autism Therapy
Depending on the intensity, severity, and how long the child, teen, or young adult has been experiencing symptoms of autism, it is ideal to combine neurofeedback with another approach. We have some clients who participate in neurofeedback but also are in talk therapy for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Depending on the needs of the client, neurofeedback and ABA are often a very powerful combination in helping children, teens, and young adults overcome the challenges that autism presents for them in their lives.
Begin Neurofeedback for Autism, Neuroatypical, or Neurodiverse Challenges Today at
Katy Teen & Family Counseling
There are answers and there is hope for your child, teen, or young adult who may be struggling with symptoms related to autism or neuroatypical/neurodiverse challenges. While neurofeedback may not be right for everyone, it has a high success rate in autism therapy.
Neurofeedback is the only autism therapy approach that actually looks at the organ of the body where the symptoms originate from -- the brain. Because of this, we can create individualized training protocols unique to your brain's performance and start training right away.
At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we have two neurofeedback therapists who are ready to help:
Jason Drake, LCSW-S, BCN is Board Certified in Neurofeedback through the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance (BCIA)
Amy Galpin, LPC-S, has been providing neurofeedback to children, teens, young adults, and adults alike since 2013.
If you believe your child, teen, or young adult could benefit from neurofeedback and you would like to schedule an appointment, you can follow these three simple steps:
Contact Katy Teen & Family Counseling
Speak with our compassionate neurofeedback professionals
Take the first step in helping your teen or young adult regain their happy, healthy, and high achieving lives by overcoming the effects of trauma.
Katy Teen & Family Counseling Also Provides Other Therapeutic Services
While we provide neurofeedback for autism, at Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we also provide marriage counseling and couples therapy, young adult counseling,
We also provide the following therapeutic services:
Peak performance (optimal academic brain performance)
Peak performance (optimal athletic brain performance)
Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR therapy) For:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) For:
Experts in Neurofeedback for Autism: Current Research in Efficacy of Neurofeedback
Neurofeedback for autism can make a difference in your teen's life. Researchers have been studying neurofeedback since the 1960's. Neurofeedback has gained attention due to its effectiveness, non-invasive nature of the treatment, and being able to treat autism with or without medication.
Below are several research studies that have been conducted regarding the effectiveness of neurofeedback for autism:
Assessment-Guided Neurofeedback for Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Improved ratings of ASD symptoms reflected an 89% success rate. Statistical analyses revealed significant improvement in Autistics who received Neurofeedback compared to a wait list control group. Other major findings included a 40% reduction in core ASD symptomatology (indicated by ATEC Total Scores), and 76% of the experimental group had decreased hyperconnectivity.
Assessment-Guided Neurofeedback for Autistic Spectrum Disorder by Robert Coben, PhD; Ilean Padolsky, PhD Journal of Neurotherapy, Vol. 11(1) 2007
Neurofeedback application in the treatment of autistic spectrum disorders (ASD)
The results have shown most changes in behaviour (less aggressive, more cooperation, better communication), attention span and sensory motor skills. According to the assessment of parents, teachers, therapists and other experts all children have accomplished a certain degree of improvement in the level of daily functioning.
Our experiences in usage of neurofeedback in Autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) children confirmed previous data that this method can be applied to this category of patients.
Zivoder I, Martic-Biocina S, Kosic AV, Bosak J. Neurofeedback application in the treatment of autistic spectrum disorders (ASD). Psychiatr Danub. 2015 Sep;27 Suppl 1:S391-4. PMID: 26417802.
An Effective Neurofeedback Intervention to Improve Social Interactions in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Neurofeedback training (NFT) approaches were investigated to improve behavior, cognition and emotion regulation in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Thirteen children with ASD completed pre-/post-assessments and 16 NFT-sessions.
The NFT was based on a game that encouraged social interactions and provided feedback based on imitation and emotional responsiveness. Bidirectional training of EEG mu suppression and enhancement (8-12 Hz over somatosensory cortex) was compared to the standard method of enhancing mu.
Children learned to control mu rhythm with both methods and showed improvements in (1) electrophysiology: increased mu suppression, (2) emotional responsiveness: improved emotion recognition and spontaneous imitation, and (3) behavior: significantly better behavior in every-day life. Thus, these NFT paradigms improve aspects of behavior necessary for successful social interactions.
Friedrich EV, Sivanathan A, Lim T, Suttie N, Louchart S, Pillen S, Pineda JA. An Effective Neurofeedback Intervention to Improve Social Interactions in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord. 2015 Dec;45(12):4084-100. doi: 10.1007/s10803-015-2523-5. PMID: 26210513.