Before exploring the impact of TMS for autism, one must fully understand what autism is. Autism spectrum disorder includes a range of conditions that are “characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.” 1
Around one out of every fifty-four children in the US have autism. Autism’s effects can vary greatly for each individual who has it, meaning some people with this issue live independently while others may require significant support 24/7.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, several family studies suggest that some people might have a genetic predisposition to autism. Multiple genes have been linked to the development of autism. Some studies believe that autism could develop due to “disruptions in normal brain growth very early in development” which could be caused by “defects in genes that control brain development and regulate how brain cells communicate with each other.” 2
There are a few environmental factors as well. All of the events have been linked to things that happen while the child is in the womb or during the birth process. They are as follows: 3
Autism can be caused by genetics and/or environmental factors that happen during pregnancy or the birthing process. Air pollutants and viral infections can also lead to the development of autism. However, what exactly causes autism is still widely debated among scientists.
Multiple different signs can indicate that your child might have autism. Because it is a spectrum disorder, these symptoms could vary in intensity and prevalence.
One big thing that parents will notice among their children is specific behaviors or interests that seem unusual. The CDC calls these restricted or repetitive behaviors or interests. Some of them are: 5
Many times, a change in order or routine might lead to a strong reaction from a child. The change could lead to them hitting themselves, reacting violently, or screaming. It is very important that a parent monitors this behavior and works with their pediatrician for guidance.
According to the CDC, many autism symptoms will be communication-based. Some of these are: 5
Although autism is normally diagnosed in early childhood, many times it goes undiagnosed. This factor is especially true for individuals that are functional and independent. Some potential signs of autism in an adult or teenager are as follows: 6
Once a child becomes diagnosed with autism, the family and the child need to start learning how to manage it. There is not a cure, and due to its variety, there is not a singular treatment path. Several different factors can help make sure that your child and family are successful when management ASD.
Education, both learning about the disorder and the educational setting, is very important when it comes to finding success. People with autism tend to do better in highly structured educational programs. Having a team of specialists will help them improve their social skills, behavior, and communication. Individualized, intensive behavioral interventions normally have a lot of success for children.
There is not a specific medication that will improve the main signs of autism. However, there are a few medications that can help improve symptoms. There might be specific medications to help with the following symptoms:
Therapy is also a significant benefit when it comes to helping a child manage autism. Behavior and communication therapy can teach the child new skills and how to handle specific situations. Family therapy can also help the family learn how to interact with the child.
There are also some other forms of alternative medicine such as creative therapies such as music or art-based therapy. Massages, pet/horse therapy, and sensory-based therapies are all things that have been used as alternative medicines and methods to help a child with autism succeed.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is effective when it comes to reducing depressive symptoms and other signs of autism. This new form of treatment has been used to help with a lot of different mental health disorders and other things. Its success with helping patients with autism could be a big breakthrough when it comes to treatment. 7
According to Mayo Clinic, TMS “is a noninvasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression.” 8 It is normally used as a last resort treatment if other things have not been effective. There are a few different parts of TMS.
Electroencephalography (EEG) is a tool that is used to probe different brain circuits non-invasively. It has allowed for a lot more excitability and connectivity, and it has led to many successes. TMS-EEG has had many successes, leading to potential clinical uses and benefits for more patients.
During TMS, specialists will place an electromagnetic coil against the patient’s head. It will then send out magnetic pulses to help painlessly stimulate the brain. They do this in hopes that it will improve the patient’s mood and ease depression. 8
Repetitive TMS (rTMS) sessions are a series of treatments that involve putting an electromagnetic coil against the patient’s scalp. The magnet will then deliver a magnetic pulse that stimulates the nerve cells in the parts of their brain that manages emotions. The goal of these sessions is to activate parts of the brain that have decreased activity due to depression. 8
TMS will always be administered by a certified TMS physician. They will place the electromagnetic coil against your head, which has a similar strength to an MRI machine. Make sure to remove any magnetic object from your body, including things like credit cards.
During the first session, medical professionals will adjust the treatment to you as an individual. While testing, your fingers and hands might twitch slightly, so do not be alarmed if this happens. They will then continue to target different parts of the brain that are linked to depression or different symptoms of autism. 9
Each session normally is under an hour. It will normally take place five days a week for about four to six weeks. This factor could vary depending on the person. You can stop treatment during a session if needed.
When preparing for TMS, it is critical to be transparent with your doctor. Let them know if you are pregnant, on any medication, have multiple mental health disorders, or if you have any other medical conditions. If you have any metal inside of your body, it would be important to let the doctor know as well.
Your doctor might perform a physical exam to make sure that your body will be able to handle TMS. They might look for any pre-existing conditions that could cause serious issues or lessen the impact of TMS therapy. Some symptoms of TMS can be headaches, hearing problems, facial twitches, discomfort in the head, and seizures in rare cases.
Because of the seriousness and intensity of the treatment, your doctor will perform a psychiatric evaluation to make sure that you can handle the treatment. They might also look for other mental health disorders to potentially target during the treatment process.
TMS is administered by a certified physician. You will be awake during the treatment, so there won’t be a need for anesthesia. Your treatment will also be monitored by the physician or administering technician.
Although it is not the preferred first option method by many doctors, there are several different ways that TMS helps people. 10
TMS is very individualized and focused on helping the patient. Although there is a lot of overlap between treatments, the doctor focuses on what works best for the patient. Unlike things like prescription drugs, the treatment will be more focused on helping out every unique individual and their specific health issues.
TMS therapy does not negatively impact your physiological health. It can help your body function normally due to the stimulating effects of the treatment. It can have a more profound impact on your life because it will reduce the negative side effects of depression and other autism symptoms, helping your daily routine and life.
Between 40-60% of people show big positive changes regarding depression after going through TMS therapy. This success rate also covers other symptoms of autism and other disorders. 11
The treatment doesn’t require medication or surgery. Instead, it can be done painlessly without invading the body.
There are very limited side effects that are quite rare for patients. Besides a potential migraine, there are little to no side effects, especially when compared to other medications that are used.
TMS treatment requires no drugs or chemicals, making it a great alternate to medications.
It is FDA-approved, meaning that it is a safe treatment that can be used to help with several neurological disorders.
Covered by Most Insurance
Many insurance companies cover treatments for mental health disorders and autism. Therefore, most insurance companies will cover TMS because of that. It should be cost-effective when looking at treatment options.
Finally, you don’t have to worry about it taking long periods. For an hour a day for a few weeks, you should be able to see significant results.
TMS therapy for autism is very beneficial. Although it is newer to the field of treating autism directly, there has been a lot of success. There is no cure for autism, but TMS therapy is a non-invasive therapy that can help with the patient’s daily routine and life.