Autism is a disorder with an extremely broad range of conditions and causes. Anything dealing with the human brain is very complicated, and new scientific data and research is coming out every day. Adults and children who have autism typically have (1) challenges with being social or being in group settings, (2) extreme sensitivity to crowds, bright lights, and loud noises, (3) the inability to adequately communicate verbally and nonverbally, and (4) an emotional response to minor changes in their daily routine.
Due to the nature of this disorder, there are very few treatments for autism, but many treatment centers and behavioral health specialists are seeing benefits to using transcranial magnetic stimulation (or TMS) with autism patients that are worth noting.OK
What Is TMS?
Electric procedures in the medical and psychiatric field have been extensively used to treat a variety of disorders, diseases, and symptoms. Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a treatment method that stimulates portions of the human brain using electromagnetic fields. Short pulses are delivered to the brain during the treatment session and can vary in length and period depending on the condition and a professional’s personalized recommendation for a particular treatment plan. These stimulations are shown to have a direct impact on brain cell functionality, so in addition to autism, this method of treatment is also used to combat symptoms of depression and anxiety in nonautistic patients (both adults and children).
Potential Benefits for Autism Disorder
- Even though TMS treatment directly involves the brain, this is a completely external experience for the patient in terms of the procedure. In the medical field, we use the term “noninvasive,” and that’s very comforting to patients and their families. The device delivering the electromagnetic pulses is pressed to the patient’s head, and someone professionally trained will start the treatment by flipping a switch that activates the process for moving the magnetic fields into the brain. There are no medications, no pills, and no surgery, just a device placed externally to the patient’s head.
- TMS treatment is considered very safe if done by a professional and within the guidelines of the device. Patients are also monitored for side effects after their treatment sessions. According to the data we have on TMS treatment, the vast majority of patients do not experience any side effects from the sessions.
- TMS treatment is used for both children and adults.
- Patients are fully awake during the treatment session and do not need to be sedated. Many patients, regardless of whether they have autism or not, have an aversion to or fear of needles. They do not like the fact that they might be unconscious or not fully present during a procedure, so this is not even an issue they need to deal with.
- The treatment is also said to be relatively painless. For someone with autism disorder who does not generally do well with changes and has extreme sensitivities, this is a major plus. Any pain that is typically felt is due to a stimulation of facial nerves or contractions of facial muscles. It’s been said that it’s not really pain that is felt, but more a case of an experience that is a little weird or tingly, and the patient does not know how to describe a sensation that they have never had before.
- Many patients who go through regular TMS treatment sessions experience a sense of calm after that they are unable to achieve or control on their own. For someone with autism, this calmness can greatly help combat triggers of becoming overly upset or overwhelmed. It can also help adults and children with autism deal with things like being in a group setting or interacting better with other people. The ability to feel like “life is easier” by having this sense of calm cannot be overstated.
- TMS treatment sessions are very routine, consistent, and extremely personalized. People with autism disorder tend to need routine and structure in their day-to-day, so being able to easily add a TMS appointment into this daily and weekly schedule is often well received.
We’re Here for You
Current studies suggest that TMS therapy is helpful for treating some symptoms of autism. Because every human is unique, treatments are customized for the individual in an attempt to garner the best results. TMS as a standalone therapy may not be a total solution for any individual, but as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, it shows promise and has already been clinically shown to help many patients.
Autism presents challenges in terms of daily life and treatment, and more options can never hurt. So if you are interested in learning more about transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) or discussing if this type of therapy is the correct approach to your treatment plan, please do not hesitate to contact us at Prime Behavioral Health in Southlake.