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Turning autism upside down: When symptoms are strengths
Date:11/25/2013

A novel approach to treating children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder could help them navigate their world by teaching them to turn their symptoms into strengths.

In the article "Symptoms as Solutions: Hypnosis and Biofeedback for Autonomic Regulation in Autism Spectrum Disorders," published in the winter edition of the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, Dr. Laurence Sugarman, a pediatrician and researcher at Rochester Institute of Technology, details a treatment method that teaches affected children how to control their psychophysiology and behavior using computerized biofeedback and clinical hypnosis.

The article coincides with the publication of the second edition of Sugarman's textbook, Therapeutic Hypnosis with Children and Adolescents, Crown House Publishing, 2013, written with William Wester.

Sugarman's model is tied to learning to self-regulate the autonomic nervous systemincluding the fight or flight mechanismthat, for many people with autism, is an engine idling on high.

"Teaching kids with autism spectrum disorder skills in turning down their fight or flight response and turning up the opposite may fundamentally allow them to be more socially engaging, decrease some of the need for cognitive rigidity and repetitive behaviors and, more importantly, allow them to feel better," says Sugarman, director of RIT's Center for Applied Psychophysiology and Self-regulation in the Institute for Health Sciences and Technology.

His treatment model underlies three ongoing projects at the center involving different age groups: teaching coping skills to RIT students with anxiety or autism; developing a computer-based role-playing game using autonomous biofeedback for teenagers; and creating a new service and research program for family members with autism for AutismUp (formerly Upstate New York Families for Effective Autism Treatment). The latter, called the Parent Effectiveness Program, began this fall
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Contact: Susan Gawlowicz
smguns@rit.edu
585-475-5061
Rochester Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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