A hidden camera placed within the family’s home captures some of Alex’s erratic behavior.
Alex sits before the television. “The Maryland boy, freeball goooooood!” he shouts at the set.
On another occasion, he shouts at his mother. “Get out!”
“Alex, stop,” she says.
“Get out,” he repeats.
And on yet another occasion, he growls loudly as he slams his bedroom door.
His mother opens the door and pokes her head into his room. “You need more attention? Is that it?”
“No,” he says.
“Then why’d you have to slam the door?” she asks.
“I’m upset with myself,” he responds miserably.
“I feel like I’m not normal,” says 15-year-old Alex. “In relation to my other friends, I feel like I’m different. Sometimes people call me ‘retard’ and it makes me feel bad on the inside, and I wish there was a way they could stop calling me that.”
“Sometimes Alex understands that it’s teasing. But other times he does not,” says Rich. “Alex’s outbursts can be very verbal, and very long-lasting. He will drag them on as long as he can.”
“My friends would describe me as probably a person who at one point would be the nicest guy in the world,” Alex explains, “but if you egg him on, his stress level is high, he will get mad at you, he may hurt you. You just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
“Sometimes I think that Alex likes having this disorder because it gives him a control, an excuse for his behavior,” Karen reveals. “I get so frustrated because I really shouldn’t be getting mad at him for things that he doesn’t understand.”
The video captures Rich yelling at Alex. “Stop cheating! Stop lying! Stop sneaking around!”
“How can I get over that habit?” Alex responds, heatedly.
“You just stop!” Rich says.
“You just have to stop it! You have to take control!” Karen says aggressively.
Alex feels helpless against the increasing tension in his family. “The arguments are the biggest issue in my mind because I think it’s starting to tear our family apart. I wish there was something I could do,” says Alex. “I’d like Dr. Phil to help my family out so we can stop having these arguments, so we can stop tearing each other apart. It’s hurt my parents’ relationship. It’s hurt our whole family’s relationship.”
“Well, how are you doing?” Dr. Phil asks Alex.
“Well, I’m glad to be on your show. I love your show, whenever I get around to it, I watch it. I love your show. I love you.”
Dr. Phil lets out a pleased chuckle. “I knew I liked this kid. We know he’s smart, right? He’s got great taste, so that’s good.” They all laugh together. He addresses Alex. “It’s an old saying, ‘Out of the mouths of babes.’ What you said in your taped piece made the most sense of everything. You said, ‘What I want is to see if Dr. Phil can help our family,’ OK? It’s interesting that you’re the one who’s suffering with the disorder, but yet what he says is, ‘I want some help for our family.’ And I’ve said a million times, if one member of a family gets cancer, for example, the whole family has cancer. You know this affects your mom, you know it affects your dad, you know it affects the way they relate to each other and to you. And what you want is to have this whole thing decompressed. Now your mom said, ‘Sometimes I think he likes having this disorder.’ Now, she doesn’t really mean that, and she could explain that, but you really don’t like having this at all.”
“No, not at all,” says Alex, “I really don’t like it. I just don’t feel normal at all.”
Dr. Phil introduces Dr. Greg Hipskind who has training in neurology and family medicine. He is the chief medical officer at Brain Matters, Inc. Dr. Phil asks for his opinion on Alex’s case.
“What we’re learning now with brain imaging and some of the newer technology,” Dr. Hipskind replies, “is that most of these problems have a brain basis, a neurological basis. In other words, the behaviors that you see are rooted in the brain. Like you alluded to earlier, if someone had a problem with their leg, you would certainly want to take an X-ray of it and look at it and take care of that. Similarly, our philosophy is that most of these problems have as the organ of interest the brain. These are brain problems and they have a biological basis.”
“And in fact, there is brain imaging available at this point and we have some of that to compare a normal brain with an Asperger’s brain, correct?”
“That’s correct,” Dr. Hipskind responds.
Dr. Phil then turns to the broad screen behind him which contains twin computerized images of the brain, side-by-side. Dr. Phil asks Dr. Hipskind to explain what the image means.
“On the left hand side of the screen,” Dr. Hipskind begins, “we’re looking at a normal brain, if you will, from the underneath side as if you were looking from the feet up. And the red coloration in this particular palette or scale denotes normal brain activity, normal blood flow. And on the right what we’re seeing is on this scale significant areas of his temporal lobes and part of his frontal lobes, the two circles, the white circles are the temporal lobes; and the yellow color denotes areas that are two standard deviations below normal; green, three standard deviations below normal.”
Dr. Phil proposes brain imaging for Alex. He says to Dr. Hipskind, “And y’all are willing to do that with Alex, and do it very thorough and detailed to find out exactly what’s going on, exactly the level of the problem and then begin to develop some strategies for managing it because there are alternatives for managing this, correct?”
“Absolutely,” agrees Dr. Hipskind. “We call them brain-based strategies.”
The family agrees to begin treatement with Brain Matters, Inc. “Alright, you can have pictures to show your friends. ‘Here’s my brain. How about yours?'” Dr. Phil joshes.