My Child Has Autism: How Neurofeedback Therapy Can Help

Emerald Coast NeuroFeedback in Pensacola, Florida, uses brain training to improve symptoms related to autism in children. 

As a parent of a child with autism, navigating the challenges of this complex condition can be concerning, frustrating, and at times, overwhelming. Traditional therapies and medications may improve some symptoms of autism, but may fall short in providing comprehensive, effective treatment for all symptoms of autism.

Biofeedback therapy, also referred to as neurofeedback, in Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach has been effective for a wide range of conditions, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, and sleep issues. Many parents in the Northwest Florida are also seeing positive results from neurofeedback therapy for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  This includes improved communication skills, attention, and emotional regulation in children with autism.  

Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain.  People with ASD often have problems with communication, social interaction, and behavior.  It is called a “spectrum” because of the wide range of symptoms that can fall within the spectrum.

Autistic symptoms usually appear in early childhood, before age three in many cases, and can persist throughout life.  It can be difficult to determine the difference between the neurodiversity of an autistic child and a child that has another type of developmental issue or has experienced trauma.   

While symptoms of autism can show up in a variety of ways, there are some common challenges that children with autism may face. These challenges can make it difficult for a child to navigate everyday life and can impact their relationships with others.

Children with autism may struggle to communicate effectively, which can lead to frustration and misunderstandings between the caregiver and the child. They may have difficulty understanding social cues, such as facial expressions and body language, which can affect relationships with others. Additionally, children with autism often have hyperactivity and impulsivity, emotional outbursts, mood swings, engage in repetitive behaviors, or have intense interests in specific topics or activities.

Key Characteristics of Autism in Children

Autism can present differently from one child to another. Some of the key characteristics of autism include:

  • Difficulty with verbal and nonverbal communication
  • Difficulty with social interactions
  • Repetitive behaviors or interests
  • Difficulty with change or transitions
  • Sensory processing difficulties
  • Difficulty controlling emotional responses
  • Difficulty with executive functioning skills (planning, organizing, and problem-solving)

These characteristics create unique challenges that can impact an autistic child’s ability to develop a healthy relationship with loved ones, succeed in school and can make it difficult for them to form friendships. It’s important for parents, caregivers, and educators to work together to provide support and accommodations that can help children with autism thrive.

In Northwest Florida, law enforcement is doing its part to protect and accommodate adults with disabilities like autism.  The Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Department launched a program in March of 2022 designed to alert first responders if someone has a disability, such as autism, PTSD, Alzheimer’s or dementia, Down Syndrome and more.  

The “SAFE Program” helps keep deputies and the individuals with a disability safe when they interact.  Deputies have a “SAFE Program Pack” in their patrol car, including a card that allows a non-verbal person to communicate.  More than 200 people are enrolled in the program and it has already helped deputies in at least five instances.  According to Sheriff Bob Johnson, the “SAFE Program” has been adopted by several agencies across Florida and they are hoping to take the program nationwide.  

What is Neurofeedback Therapy? 

Neurofeedback Therapy is a drug free approach that uses real-time monitoring of your brainwave activity, training the brain to regulate itself.  Neurofeedback, or EEG biofeedback therapy, uses sensors that are placed on your scalp and connected to specialized computer software that analyze your brainwaves. The computer software then sends information back to your brain in real time through audio or visual cues, teaching your brain to improve its capacity to regulate itself.  Regulated brain waves can significantly improve functioning in areas such as communication, attention span, mood regulation and impulse control.

Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to form new neural connections and pathways and change how its circuits are wired.  Neurofeedback uses the brain’s natural ability to improve its functioning, reorganize, and regulate itself.  

How Does Brain Training Work for Autism?

Children with autism often exhibit abnormal patterns of brainwave activity.  The brain activity of children with autism can vary, and their brainwave patterns and imbalances differ.  Neurofeedback allows for a personalized approach to treatment, tailoring the training to the specific needs of your child.  This individualized approach may contribute to the effectiveness of neurofeedback in addressing the autistic symptoms in your child. 

Neurofeedback training, or brain training, helps the brain process information more efficiently by improving its ability to create new healthy brainwave patterns.  If your child has difficulty communicating or interacting with others, neurofeedback can help improve their symptoms by training their brain to focus and better control their emotions.  Brain training can help autistic children see improvements in behavior, mood, and communication. 

In addition to treating symptoms of autism itself (such as social challenges), neurofeedback can also help autistic children who may be nonverbal experience dramatic improvement in their symptoms.

Benefits of Neurofeedback Therapy for Autism in Pensacola

Emerald Coast NeuroFeedback, with offices in Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach, Florida, has been effective in improving the quality of life for children with autism. Below are some of the reported benefits of neurofeedback for autism:

Increase Social Interactions

Autistic children often have a hard time regulating their emotions, which makes it even more difficult for them to make eye contact, communicate, or have social interaction with others.  Neurofeedback can help autistic children who are nonverbal experience dramatic improvement in these symptoms. 

Enhance Emotional and Behavioral Regulation

Neurofeedback has been shown to be effective in significantly reducing symptoms associated with hyperactivity and impulsivity, tantrums, anger outbursts, and mood swings, all of which can be disruptive or lead to injury to both the child as well as those around them.

Improve Attention and Focus (Academic Performance)

Children with autism may struggle with academics.  Neurofeedback can help improve cognitive function, focus, and attention span, which leads to increased academic performance.

Reduce Stress & Anxiety

Anxiety is a common symptom for children with autism.  New situations or new environments can be difficult to manage for a child with autism. Neurofeedback can help regulate the brain, which makes stressful situations much easier to handle, reducing anxiety.

Improve Sleep

Many children with autism struggle with sleep issues, such as difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or nightmares. Neurofeedback can help improve regulation of the brainwaves associated with sleep, improving both the amount of time asleep and the overall quality of sleep.

Decrease Sensory Issues

Children with autism often experience sensory issues, such as sensitivity to light, sound, or touch. Neurofeedback therapy can help the brain regulate its response to sensory input, decreasing certain sensory issues.

Increase Self-Esteem

Children with autism may struggle with self-esteem due to social difficulties and other challenges. Neurofeedback can help to overcome negative thoughts, improve communication, enhance cognitive function, and support emotional regulation.  As a result, children feel more relaxed and confident during social situations, making it easier to connect with others, improving relationships, and increasing self-esteem. 

Autistic children can benefit from neurofeedback treatment in conjunction with alternative treatments such as speech therapy and occupational therapy.

Neurofeedback therapy in Pensacola is not a cure for autism, but it can improve autistic symptoms in many cases, leading to improving quality of life. In addition to neurofeedback in Pensacola, your child can also benefit from other treatments for autism such as speech and occupational therapies. Speech therapy helps children with autism improve their communication skills so they can express themselves better and understand others better. Occupational therapy teaches daily living skills such as cleaning up after yourself or using utensils at the dinner table in an appropriate manner.

Neurofeedback for Autism in Children in Summary

When it comes to autism in children, there is no one-size-fits-all method of treatment. Each child is different and has their own needs that must be met to help them function at their best.

Neurofeedback therapy is a form of biofeedback that uses sensors placed to monitor brainwaves and provide feedback. The sensors measure brainwave activity and display it in real time. The feedback is used to help the brain learn to create healthier brainwave patterns and make improvements in how it is functioning.

Neurofeedback offers a promising approach for children with autism.  It is a natural method to enhance attention, emotional regulation, and overall brain function.  While neurofeedback is not a cure for autism, it can be a valuable addition to a comprehensive treatment plan and can support and enhance other therapies.  Consulting with an experienced neurofeedback professional can help determine if neurofeedback is a suitable option for your child.  

If you are considering neurofeedback therapy or have questions about neurofeedback therapy for your specific needs, consult with a neurofeedback therapist at Emerald Coast NeuroFeedback.   

FAQs about Neurofeedback Therapy for Children with Autism

Is neurofeedback therapy safe for children with autism?

Yes!  Neurofeedback is considered safe for children, teens, and adults with autism.  Neurofeedback is non-invasive and does not involve the use of medication, so there are no adverse side effects.

How long does it take to get results from neurofeedback therapy for children with autism?

Brainwave patterns are different for each person, so the number of neurofeedback sessions it takes to get results from neurotherapy for children with autism depends on the individual child. Children receiving neurofeedback therapy before age 12 tend to see gains quickly.  Many parents see noticeable improvements after just a few sessions of neurofeedback for specific symptoms of autism.  However, it is recommended to complete 20 to 30 sessions for the results to be lasting.

What makes neurofeedback different than other treatments for autism?

Traditional treatments for autism focus on modifying behavior through external prompts and rewards, neurofeedback takes a direct approach by training the brain itself.  By influencing brainwave patterns, neurofeedback helps address the root neurological imbalances that contribute to autism symptoms.  Rather than trying to manage the symptoms, neurofeedback seeks to facilitate lasting improvements in brain function. 

Can neurofeedback be used in conjunction with other therapies for the treatment of autism?

Yes, neurofeedback can be used in conjunction with other therapies for autism, such as speech therapy and behavior therapy.  In fact, a multi-faceted approach that combines various therapies can often yield the best outcomes for children on the autism spectrum. 

Can neurofeedback cure autism?

While neurofeedback can be a valuable tool in managing autism symptoms, it is not a cure for autism.  Neurofeedback therapy can help your child improve numerous symptoms of autism that may detract from their quality of life.  These include improving attention and focus, verbal and nonverbal communication, emotions, behavior, and their response to stressful situations.