TMS For Autism: Improving Social Skills, Repetitive Behaviors, and Irritability


1 out of every 54 children in the United States are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Over the past few decades, autism has become increasingly more common in young children than it ever was before. Although it is a livable disorder to have, there are many symptoms that come along with it, including behavioral disturbances, having a hard time learning new things and comprehending them, delay in speech, and many more developmental issues that can be challenging for a young kid growing up.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS for short, has had revolutionary results on autism in both young children and adults. Even though it has yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), TMS is on the road to improving the lives of many people that suffer from autism spectrum disorder with a non-invasive treatment that targets the parts of the brain that autism affects.

Continue reading this article to learn:

  • What is Autism?
  • How Can You Know if Your Child Has Autism?
  • Are There Multiple Types of Autism?
  • What is TMS? 
  • Life Changing Results of TMS on an Autism Patient
  • The Future of TMS for Autism

What is Autism?

Autism can be many different things combined into one. What we mean is that autism can affect many different motor skills, developmental skills, learning skills, and more in a child. With early signs showing as soon as a child turns two or three, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be shown through issues and challenges such as social skills, nonverbal communication, speech delays, and even repetitive behavior. 

The most common reasons that a child is diagnosed with autism can be because of a mixture of both genetic and environmental factors. Doctors are able to diagnose the child with autism based on their developmental levels and behaviors that can seem off, or unlike a child not diagnosed with autism.

What Are the Symptoms of Autism?

There are many ways for both parents and doctors to identify the early signs of autism in children. It can be the littlest things that throw them off such as a minor change in routine, or they have a lack of eye contact, little to no interest in other children or caretakers, and even speech problems, or the lack there of in speech. 

signs of autism
There are many different symptoms and signs that a young one suffers from autism. This can include lack of interaction with children and caretakers, repetitive behaviors, abnormal body posture or facial expressions, and more. Image courtesy of Genesis Counseling Center. 

Besides lack of eye contact, little to no interest in other children and caretakers, speech problems, and even being upset over minor routine changes, there are many symptoms, or issues that children with autism face. These can include abnormal body posture or facial expressions, behavioral disturbances, struggling to comprehend what they’re learning, lack of empathy, repeating words or phrases, social withdrawal, and much more. 

How Can You Know If Your Child Has Autism?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you get your child screened if you think it’s possible they have autism spectrum disorder. While many doctors can detect autism in as little as eighteen months in a child, they can sometimes not show any symptoms until as late as three years old. There are two different wants to observe and determine if your child has autism and those are by developmental monitoring, or developmental screening. 

Developmental Monitoring

One way to see if your child shows signs of autism is by developmental monitoring. Developmental monitoring consists of observing whether or not your child is developing at the pace they should be. You can observe this through how they play with other kids, how they speak, learn, behave, even how they move. 

It is recommended that everyone who takes part in watching the child, including parents, grandparents, and even caretakers, watch for some deficiencies in the normal process of growing up and learning in a child. Doctors will also participate in this and observe how the child reacts to playing, and will also take into consideration many other factors when doing a normal doctor visit. They will consider one missed milestone as a sign of autism spectrum disorder. 

autistic child and parent
By practicing developmental monitoring or having your child go under a developmental screening, you can see if your child is struggling with learning, social interactions, and much more to determine if they have autism or not. Image courtesy of Raising Children Network. 

Developmental Screening

The other way to check and see if your child suffers from signs of autism is by developmental screening. Developmental screening takes a deeper look into how your child is growing up, learning, how they handle social interactions, and much more. Either your child will undergo a brief test, or the parent will take a questionnaire about their child with questions including their development, learning, moving, emotions, behavior, and more. This is a more formal approach compared to developmental monitoring because it gives more accurate results. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that you get your child screened for behavior and development issues at their normal doctor’s visits at the ages of nine, eighteen, and thirty months. The AAP also recommends that children get specifically screened for autism at eighteen and 24 months. 

Are There Multiple Types of Autism?

 There are a few different types of autism that people can be diagnosed with. They can range from the most mild form where someone can function in day-to-day life, to a combination of mild and major autism, to the most extreme, which is autism itself where someone faces difficulties in learning, behaving, and more.

different types of autism
There are many different types of autism, which includes Asperger’s Syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder, and autism. Image courtesy of eduAutism. 

Asperger’s Syndrome

The most high functioning form of it is Asperger’s Syndrome, which is classified as someone being very intelligent, but not understanding social or emotional cues. They can live a normal day-to-day life, but they struggle with maintaining relationships, and even lack empathy in other people. 

Pervasive Developmental Disorder

The next one is pervasive developmental disorder (PDD-NOS), which falls in between high functioning autism, like Asperger’s Syndrome, and autism itself. The symptoms of this form of autism are a little more severe than Asperger’s, where they can experience delays in developmental, social, and communication skills, but it is nowhere near as severe as autism. Autism falls right under pervasive developmental disorder being the most common form of the disorder.

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder

Childhood disintegrative disorder is the rarest form on the autism spectrum and it is also considered to be the most severe for many reasons. Children who suffer from this develop as many normal children do, but then start to rapidly lose social, language, and mental skills by the time they reach the ages of two to four. Children who suffer from this terrible condition also commonly suffer from a seizure disorder as well, furthering the health and mental complications that they can experience. 

What is TMS?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS for short, has lots of revolutionary effects on many different brain related issues. TMS is a non-invasive treatment that sends electromagnetic pulses to certain parts of the brain where brain related issues, such as depression are affecting the brain to boost someone’s mood and even help them to overcome their condition and go into remission.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a noninvasive treatment that helps people that suffer with brain related issues, such as depression. Image courtesy of Dartmouth-Hitchcock.

The only brain related issue that has been FDA-approved so far is depression, but it has also been known to show many positive effects on other issues such as anxiety, PTSD, OCD, and so much more. It is said that about seven in ten people respond to the procedure while fifty percent of people will achieve long lasting remission results after a few TMS treatments. 

TMS is considered to be one of the safest treatment options for someone who is suffering from a brain related issue and it is a great option to choose if medications and even therapy aren’t working for someone. 

Are There Any Side Effects of TMS?

Even with being one of the safest treatment options to cure your depression, or other related issues, there are some side effects that come with TMS, but don’t worry they’re not as serious as you would think. Many of the common ones include headaches, discomfort at the site of the location where the electromagnetic pulses were distributed, spasms of facial muscles after the procedure, and even some lightheadedness.

While there aren’t a lot of significantly harmful side effects to TMS, there are some major ones that are very rare for someone to experience. Some of the major side effects that someone can experience are seizures, mania, which is more common in bipolar patients, and even hearing loss if the right ear protection equipment isn’t worn. We firmly believe that TMS is one of the safest treatment options to undergo if you’re suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, and there is even some evidence that it helps children and adults suffering from autism.

Life Changing Results of TMS on Autism Patients

In a study done on repetitive TMS treatments for patients with autism spectrum disorder, they have found significant results to the symptoms that come along with having and being diagnosed with autism. In an experiment done by professional researchers on many patients that suffered from autism, despite gender, age, or race, TMS treatments were performed on some, while others received a sham treatment, otherwise known as the placebo treatment. 

The people that received the real TMS treatment for their autism noticed results that helped them with many normal, yet major symptoms that come with the disorder. Some symptoms it has helped to alleviate are irritability, repetitive behaviors, and it even helped with eye-coordination and improved social skills. 

child getting tms treatment
TMS has been proven to help children and adults that suffer from autism with helping to reduce some of the symptoms they experience such as irritability, hyperactivity, and repetitive behaviors. Image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

One Successful Story of TMS on Autism Patients

One study that showed true results was on TMS proving to help depressive adults that have autism. In a study done by the Medical University of South Carolina, TMS treatments were performed on an adult male that was diagnosed with autism at a young age, but also suffered from long term depression. It is known in the medical field that depressive symptoms can make autism symptoms worse and more difficult to deal with. Antidepressants can even make autism symptoms worse, so it’s challenging with someone dealing with both conditions.

Thirteen adults ranging from 18-65 with both depression and autism underwent 25 TMS treatments over a span of 25 days, meaning one treatment of TMS a day. When the results of the experiment came out, it was said that 70% of people noticed a decrease in their depressive symptoms while 40% of patients went into remission. While depressive symptoms went down drastically, only some autism symptoms decreased, like repetitive behavior, hyperactivity, and irritability. The only side effects that some participants suffered were headaches, scalp discomfort, and fatigue. 

The Future of TMS for Autism

TMS on autism is still in its early stages where there has been only a lot of theory about the experiment working on an autism patient, or there are only a couple clinical trials that have been performed. That doesn’t necessarily mean that there won’t be more in the future, but it is in its infancy and learning how to understand both autism and the effects that TMS treatments have on it are critical into making sure that it is a safe procedure for people with the disorder to undergo.

We hope that with more and more studies and experiments will be done on autism in the future. TMS treatments have proven time and time again to show revolutionary results on not only depression, but many other brain related issues, like autism. With more research to be done, we hope for a future where TMS can help autism patients live a normal day-to-day life even with their condition.

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