This is an edited version of an article by Barbara Murphy BFRP which appeared in the Bach Centre’s BFRP Bulletin Issue 82, Spring 2013, www.bachcentre.com

The Bach Remedies and Asperger’s Syndrome

What is Asperger’s?

Asperger’s is defined as an autism spectrum disorder, and was first described by Hans Asperger in 1944. The term didn’t enter the official Health Service vocabulary until 1981—and is due to disappear again as the diagnosis is lumped back in with autism.

Sometimes known as ‘high-functioning autism,’ Asperger’s tends to be found in people of average, or in many cases above-average, intelligence. Being a spectrum condition it appears in widely varying forms, and in fact most of us can probably lay claim to two or three of the symptoms; it’s only when they are numerous and cause difficulties in daily life that the syndrome becomes a problem. More and more adults are being diagnosed, as well as children.

Complete Guide to Asperger's book cover

I’m not going to describe Asperger’s in detail here, but there is a growing literature on the subject, of which the most comprehensive reference work is Tony Attwood’s Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome (available from Amazon and see also his website www.tonyattwood.com.au)

There are also many autobiographies and self-help books written by people with Asperger’s, and Internet forums discussing common problems. Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Sherlock in the TV series is an excellent example of the top end of the spectrum.

The cause of the syndrome is not known, though it’s thought to have a genetic element. The best way to describe the effects is to say that the right-brain—the emotional and intuitive functions—doesn’t connect properly with the left-brain, which dominates.

People affected are strong in logical, rational thought and tend to gravitate towards careers in IT, science or engineering (although they can be found in every sphere and several are film directors). However, they experience problems in three broad areas: social interaction and relationships; verbal and non-verbal communication; imagination, emotional behaviour and flexibility of thought.

What is the relevance of the Bach Flower Remedies?

The condition itself is not curable, and indeed it would be wrong even to think in terms of a cure being desirable. And it’s arguably incorrect to call Asperger’s a ‘disorder’ since the scientific and IT skills of those who have it contribute invaluably to modern life. Note that I don’t refer to people with Asperger’s as ‘sufferers’ either. Instead we can use the word ‘Aspies’: a friendly nickname people with the syndrome use for themselves. (Aspies similarly categorise supposedly ‘normal’ people as NTs, or ‘neuro-typicals’.)

Aspies function perfectly well within their own terms of reference; it’s only when they come up against the rest of the world that they encounter problems. They experience the same emotional imbalances as other people (though sometimes for different reasons) but in particular they tend to suffer from anxiety and/or depression, along with great bewilderment and uncertainty caused by lack of understanding of other people’s behaviour. In children these often manifest as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

Anger management can be needed for those on a short fuse (Impatiens?) and prone to ‘meltdown’ (Cherry Plum?), while many have poor organisational skills and may need help with time management (Hornbeam?), goal-setting (Wild Oat?) or decision-making (Scleranthus?).

Some states are part and parcel of the syndrome; for instance, while having a remarkable memory and detailed knowledge in areas of special interest, an Aspie may otherwise lack the ability to concentrate. Low self-esteem, perfectionism, sometimes extreme sensitivity to touch, smells, taste and so on, are all worth addressing, but an Aspie may prove less responsive than other people.

What are the difficulties and unique factors in treating someone with Asperger’s?

To start with, it’s no use asking an Aspie how he or she feels. They simply don’t know. They experience emotions, often with extreme intensity, but have no way of accessing them with the analytical part of the brain so cannot understand or define them. Obviously the extent to which this applies varies between individuals, but in many cases the range of recognisable feelings is limited to ‘happy’, ‘sad’, and ‘angry’. Even body language is unreliable as Aspies have a limited range of expressions and probably don’t look happy or upset even when euphoric or in great distress. Furthermore there is little awareness of mood changes, or memory of past moods even within a short time-scale. This can be very frustrating when you can see that a remedy has been successful and they’re still denying that it’s had any effect at all!

Secondly, they’re very likely to deny any effect, as their rational approach will refuse to admit there can possibly be any efficacy in the remedies. This is, of course, assuming you’ve managed to overcome this and persuade them to take them in the first place; an Aspie mind can be intractably stubborn and unable to compromise enough to do something that doesn’t make sense to them.

The third main issue I’ve found is that of taking drops at regular intervals. Any small change in routine, just one extra thing to remember, can sometimes be enough to overwhelm them. So much so, that they may refuse on these grounds to take the drops at all.

Suggested solutions

To assess emotional states and changes, the best way is to enlist the help of a partner, parent or other relative, someone who can observe closely over time and report back on behaviour.

Persuading them to take the remedies in order to make someone else happy is a good approach. Aspies are very caring and will do anything to help or please others, so long as they’re asked specifically and not expected to guess what’s required. Alternatively, explaining that they can be effective even as a placebo may work. (For the most concise definition I’ve come across of the placebo effect: “activation of the self-healing response”, see the free e-book Bach Flowers for Mind-Body Healing by Jennifer Barraclough BFRP which can be downloaded in a number of different formats at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/176232. This highly-recommended book focuses on the role of the remedies in assisting when we actually feel ill already with some illness or disease.)

As for timing and dosage, another family member can be given responsibility where possible, but for an adult living alone and unable to cope with extra “stuff to think about”, I simply gave instructions to keep the bottle by the kettle and put a squirt in each drink. Eventually this led to formation of a new habit—although perfectionism then took over with the measurement of exactly four drops, to the point where he complained that the next bottle seemed to have a slightly different dropper size.

It’s also important to give instructions that are very clear and precise, and comprehensive. “Take some whenever you feel you need them” won’t mean anything. I once came across an (Aspie) mother who had been treating her (also Aspie) twelve-year-old son with an undiluted remedy until he became intolerant of the brandy. “Such a pity,” she said, “Because it worked, and now he can’t take it any more… well, it didn’t say on the bottle to dilute it…”

For comments on this article and more information about Asperger’s Syndrome and the Bach Remedies visit http://pixiedusthealing.blogspot.ca/2013/03/aspergers-bach-flowers-and-being-frank.html, by Heather MacKenzie-Carey BFRP