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Article of Interest - Asperger Syndrome

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Bridges4Kids Logo'Unlimited Potential' Program Offers Hope
by Barbara Rolek, North West Indiana Times, December 30, 2003
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Alex Harvey is a little preoccupied and logical to the point of irritation.

A typical gifted child.

In truth, the 10-year-old Munster boy has Asperger's disorder. Many cases of this syndrome go undiagnosed because it is assumed that a child with a high IQ is bound to act differently.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, Asperger's is one of five disorders that fit under the umbrella of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs). Others include autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder and Rett's disorder.

While the association classifies Asperger's as a separate disorder from autism, many professionals still consider it to be a less severe form of autism.

"People with PDDs have an imbalance in the brain; they missed a step in their development and some connections are incomplete. Through examination, we determine which side of the brain is damaged and begin to build connections between the neurons," said Dr. Dalynn Brummett, a board-certified chiropractic neurologist who practices in Highland and Valparaiso.

Brummett has introduced a new therapy to Northwest Indiana, called the Unlimited Potentials Program, for people of all ages and a spectrum of diseases, including PDDs, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, stroke, Tourette's, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, behavioral disorders and brain trauma.

"Unlimited Potentials is a drugless therapy that creates permanent change in the brain," Brummett said.

Therapy usually consists of two to three one-hour sessions that include chiropractic adjustments, light, sound and aroma stimuli, use of the Interactive Metronome -- a computer-based tool that addresses attention, learning and cognitive problems -- and musculoskeletal, balance and aerobic exercises.

Alex Harvey is one of her patients.

At an early age, Sandra Harvey noticed he lacked reciprocal conversation. When he was stressed, he would spin, walk on tiptoes, tap, sing or hum. He was eccentric and spoke like a robot.

"The other kids got annoyed and thought he was just weird," she said.

Harvey knew it was something else. Because her 15-year-old son also has Asperger's, she knew the signs. Her 17-year-old daughter does not have a PDD.

Alex has been on Brummett's program for the last two months and Harvey said she sees a noticeable difference. Alex also is seeing a change.

"Kids at school like me more. I'm better at volleyball and basketball, I'm sleeping better and I'm behaving better at home now," said Alex, who is a fifth-grader at Eads Elementary School in Munster.

Diana Van Gundy first noticed something going on with her son, Emmett, when he was about 3.

"He played side-by-side other kids, but he didn't interact with them," the Dyer woman said.

She began talking to special education agencies and had her son tested, but he wasn't fully diagnosed with Asperger's until he was 6.

"Emmett had fears about everything -- having his hair cut, going to the dentist, going to school and leaving me. The weird thing about Asperger's, it's so subtle. People think they're a little odd, like little professors, but that's all," Van Gundy said.

"I didn't want to medicate him because that's just treating a symptom, not a condition, and there are too many side effects," she said.

Van Gundy has two younger children, 6 and 4. Emmett is now 8, attends occupational and speech therapy and has recently started the Unlimited Potential program.

"It's incredible that despite all the things Asperger's children have to deal with, they can go on to achieve great things," Van Gundy said.

Harvey and Van Gundy formed a support group to help other parents who are going through what can be a devastating experience for the entire family.

"Asperger's has changed our personalities forever. I am not the same person I was 10 years ago," Harvey said. "But Alex has come a long way, and the best is yet to come."

There are many myths about PDDs. Contrary to popular belief, many adults and children do make eye contact, show affection, smile, laugh and demonstrate a variety of other emotions, it just may be less or different from a non-PDD child. Children do not outgrow PDDs, but symptoms may lessen as the child develops and receives treatment.

"After all these years of research, it's still not clear what causes PDDs," Brummett said.

Theories exist linking heredity, genetics and medical problems. There appears to be a pattern of PDDs in many families, and some children are born with a predisposition but the trigger has not been identified.

"It is important for people to realize that PDDs are not caused by bad parenting. They are not mental illness, nor are they bad behavior on the part of the child," Brummett said.

"Most of all, there is hope," she said.

    

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