Symptoms as Solutions: Hypnosis and biofeedback for autonomic regulation with young people who have autism spectrum disorder
Laurence Sugarman, MD, ABMH
Format: MP3 Audio file download
Hypnosis and biofeedback may be the keys to therapy for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Even though the number of young people who meet criteria for ASD are increasing in prevalence, there has been little reported about the use of hypnosis and biofeedback for helping these young people cope with both core symptoms and comorbidities of ASD. This is noteworthy because anxiety, sleep disturbance and irritable bowel syndrome co-occur in high prevalence in ASD and are particularly amenable to hypnosis in therapy. Even more compelling, we introduce a causal theory of ASD positing
that developmentally early autonomic defects lead to both sympathetic overarousal and characteristic impairments in language and social engagement. It appears that cognitive rigidity and repetitive behaviors, typical in ASD, manifest as mitigating, self-regulatory efforts. We explain how self-regulation therapy using hypnosis and biofeedback should be highly effective, especially for young people with ASD. Hypnotic strategies can utilize restrictive, repetitive behaviors in trance as resources for comfort and control. Biofeedback training can be tailored to focus on autonomic regulation. In this workshop we will illustrate and discuss the observations and research that support the "Autonomic Dysregulation Theory" of ASD. Then, using clinical vignettes, role-play and discussion, we will detail hypnotic and biofeedback strategies that work well with young people who have autism to help them decrease impairments, increase comfort and reach their potential. Finally we will explore exciting ongoing and future research using computerized interactive media to teach autonomic selfregulation to children and adolescents with ASD.
During and at the conclusion of this session, the attendee will be able to:
- List three (3) lines of evidence that implicate autonomic dysregulation as causal in autism spectrum disorder;
- Outline the two (2) clinical approaches for increasing autonomic self-regualtion in people with ASD, citing at least two (2) benefits and two (2) caveats for both;
- Describe at least three (3) different research directions exploring implications of the Autonomic Dysregulation Theory; and
- Identify at least two (2) implications of this workshop presentation for the practices of the workshop participants.