Note: ARTICLE PUBLISHED IN JANUARY 2006 WASHINGTONIAN MAGAZINE.
by Jody Jaffe
Deborah Stokes used neuro- feedback therapy to treat a suicidal teenager. The boy is now happy and off anti- depressants.
WHEN Lori told Jeff, her 15-year-old son, to write up his Odyssey notes for English class, he ran to the kitchen and grabbed a knife. He pointed it at himself, then turned it on his mother. “If you won’t let me kill myself,” he screamed, “I’ll kill you.” He fell to the floor and cradled his head between his hands. “I can’t stop it! My head, my head,” he said as he rocked back and forth.
That was in the spring of 2003. Lori couldn’t remember a time when her younger son had been happy. Prone to violent behavior, he’d been in psychotherapy since age 11. He’d been on three types of medications and tried individual and group therapy. Nothing was working.
“I know what hell looks like,” says the 48-yearold Springfield mother of three. “It’s your child …. “ She struggles to finish the sentence. “This time two years ago, I would have sworn to you I was going to be burying my child. He wanted out, and he was planning it.”
Then Dr. Michael Anderson, a McLean psychiatrist, suggested Jeff try neurofeedback training. It had helped Anderson’s daughter with her attention deficit disorder as well as many of his patients who hadn’t responded to medication for other problems.
On Anderson’s recommendation, Lori took Jeff to Deborah Stokes, an Alexandria neurofeedback therapist. I was skeptical of it because I’d tried a lot of things and nothing seemed to work,” says Jeff. “Every day was a battle, emotional and physical.”
After 15 sessions, he noticed a difference: “I wasn’t as stressed out and depressed.” After 45 sessions, his mother noticed big changes. “He’s happy; he smiles,” Lori says. “He’s offantidepressants for the first time since fourth grade. He’s got a life ahead of him, where I didn’t think he had one before.”
JEFF’S STORY was one of many I heard while researching neurofeedback training and another brain therapy, EEG (electroencephalogram) stimulation. A Northern Virginia boy with Tourette’s syndrome saw his tics almost disappear; a man with Lyme disease can now sleep through the night; a musician with debilitating headaches is not only pain-free but hears the bass notes better; several Montgomery County golfers are playing better; and 30 students at London’s Royal College of Music scored a full grade higher on performance exams during a study of neurofeedback training, which is now part of the college’s curriculum.
I have a story of my own, though it is not as dramatic as Jeff’s. I can find my keys.
NEUROFEEDBACK training is a kind of biofeedback therapy. But instead of learning to control body temperature or muscle tension, as with traditional biofeedback, you learn to control your brain waves.
It started in the late 1960s with cats and rocket fuel. M. Barry Sterman, a UCLA sleep researcher, discovered that a kind of brain wave, SMR, or sensorimotor response, was associated with a reduction of muscle tension in cats. He taught some cats to increase the frequency of this brain wave.
Right after that study, NASA asked him to research the toxic effects of the rocket fuel monomethyl hydrazine. Among the test cats were some who’d been trained to increase their SMR waves. After being exposed to the fuel, those cats didn’t have seizures.
Sterman then tested people with epilepsy who weren’t responding to medication. He found a 60-percent reduction in seizures for those who were taught to increase the SMR brain-wave frequency. Researchers soon found that controlling brain waves worked in all sorts of situations. Though neurofeedback therapy has been available for more than 25 years, it’s only recently started to attract mainstream attention. Advocates say it helps everything from epilepsy to a bad game of tennis, with stops along the way at headaches, insomnia, diminished memory, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder, lackluster job performance, and head injury. Although it cannot halt degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, it has been used to alleviate symptoms such as tremors.
MICHAEL SITAR, a Friendship Heights psychologist, describes neurofeedback training as similar to physical therapy. “If you’ve got a weak muscle,” he says, “you work to strengthen it. If your brain is under- or overproducing, you work to fix that.” Neurofeedback training is, in Sitar’s words, “going to the gym to pump neurons.”
Consider neurofeedback training a kind of brain gym, except there’s no going for the burn. It’s not only painless but fun — you play a video game without a joystick or keyboard. You move the images around by thinking.
“What the client is looking at on the computer screen is their brain-wave activity translated into a video game,” says Stokes, the Alexandria neurotherapist who treated Jeff.
The closest anyone comes to you during treatment is to stick electrodes on your head with a white paste. These electrodes read the electrical output of your brain’s neurons, which form patterns called brain waves. Generally speaking, the slow waves-delta, theta, and alpha-are associated with daydreaming, sleep, or distraction. They’re fine if you’re meditating or meandering through the woods but can be debilitating if you’re trying to finish a task or concentrate.
You need the fast ones, the worker-bee waves–beta and SMR–to get things done. But too many can lead to agitation. It all comes down to balance. Imbalances can be the result of everything from genetics to brain injury to illnesses such as Lyme disease.
A TREATMENT session goes like this: You sit in front of a computer screen with the electrodes pasted to your head reading your brain waves. The brain-training software translates them into video-game images for you to manipulate. In my case it was three rockets chasing an asteroid.
Treatment takes anywhere from 20 to 100 sessions; the average is 50. Over its course, the therapist usually ratchets up the difficulty of the game. That forces your brain to work harder, much like your quadriceps would have to work harder if you added weight to the quad press.
“Neurofeedback mirrors the client’s own brain activity back to them in the form of a video game,” says Stokes. “The client is asked to change a part of the video game for instance, to make one rocket ship go faster and one slower. This enables the client to decrease brain-wave amplitudes that may be too strong and increase others that are too weak. Flexing brain waves is like weightlifting and seems to have an overall strengthening effect on mental and emotional processes such as mood, anxiety, and cognitive processing.”
While you’re playing the video game, the therapist monitors another screen, adjusting the game to make it harder or easier for you to move things around, depending on which brain wave she’s trying to adjust.
“Make it go faster,” Stokes said to me when I tried it. “How?” I said. “Only adults ask that question,” she said. “Kids can figure it out.”
I channeled my thoughts to the rocket ships, and suddenly they were going faster. When my mind wandered, they went backward. I channeled my concentration and they zoomed forward. When I was finished, I was relaxed and could remember the feeling of zooming myself into concentration.
But my life didn’t change dramatically. I went home and promptly lost my keys. Neurofeedback training is nicknamed brain gym for a reason. You can’t do one set of leg lifts and expect toned thighs. It took Jeff 15 sessions to notice a difference.
IN THE JANUARY 2000 editorial in the journal Clinical Electroencephalography, Frank H. Duffy, a Harvard University professor and pediatric neurologist, wrote of neurofeedback therapy: “In my opinion, if any medication had demonstrated such a wide spectrum of efficacy it would be universally accepted and widely used.”
An article in the January 2005 issue of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America said that neurotherapy should be considered “probably efficacious” for the treatment of attention deficit disorder: “Research findings published to date indicate positive clinical response in approximately 75 percent of patients treated in controlled group studies.”
Critics say the research is thin and inconclusive. Russell Barkley, a psychiatry professor at the Medical University of South Carolina and founder of the newsletter The ADHD Report, remains skeptical about neurofeedback and attributes gains to a placebo effect.
“Sandra Loo and I reviewed all of the published studies and our conclusion was that the two controlled studies out there found no significant results,” he wrote in an e-mail to me. “All other published ‘studies’ are just uncontrolled presentations of information that lack sufficient scientific rigor to draw any conclusions.”
No one, including Barkley, says neurofeedback therapy is harmful. Stokes says she has treated children as young as four years old.
“I generally have been in the closet about neurofeedback with other psychiatrists,” says Anderson, the McLean psychiatrist. “Occasionally I’ll bring it up and get polite attention, and then the subject quickly changes. They think it’s quackery. But I’ve seen the research, and it’s very rewarding because people are getting better.” Anderson has recommended neurofeedback to 40 patients. He says 35 have improved significantly.
EEG STIMULATION is another form of therapy under the neurotherapy umbrella. Mary Lee Esty, a Chevy Chase neurotherapist, likes EEG because, she says, it works faster than neurofeedback.
“I like to see results quickly,” says Esty, who’s been using EEG stimulation in her practice since 1994. A colleague told her about it, and she flew to California to observe Len Ochs, the neurotherapist who developed the EEG-stimulation software she uses. She watched him work with patients suffering from brain injury, autism, and fibromyalgia.
“I was blown away by the results,” she says. “I knew people like this tend not to get better so quickly. I came back with his software and treated myself. I had no idea how much it would change my ability to remember what I read.”
Unlike neurofeedback training, which is noninvasive, EEG stimulation sends a hint of electricity into your brain. One picowatt of power–that’s one-trillionth of a watt –pulses through your brain anywhere from two to 30 times a second.
Eight hospital boards have deemed EEG stimulation safe, according to Esty. “A biomedical engineer said that a comparative scale would be powering the lights of Las Vegas on a AAA battery,” Esty says. “The stim is so small that most doctors, until they see the effects, believe that it cannot possibly have a therapeutic effect.”
The setup is the same as with neurofeedback training: electrodes, white paste, computer. But you don’t watch it. You lean back in a recliner, close your eyes, and feel nothing while the computer sends the picowatt of energy your way. It’s painless and quick, sometimes lasting less than a minute.
If there were a nanocamera inside your head, it might show this pulsing picowatt of power tickling your brain into producing more endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, and boosting other neurotransmitters like serotonin, which affect mood, body temperature, and sleep, among other things. At least that’s the theory.
“It remains to be researched at the cellular level,” Esty says. Some doctors, she says ,also think that electrical brain stimulation increases blood flow and may stimulate the regrowth of damaged neurons so function can return. But nothing is known for sure yet.
“How many decades did it take to figure out why aspirin worked?” Esty says. “This is a field that needs a lot of research.”
That’s something everyone-both opponents and proponents-can agree on. The 1998 National Institutes of Health report on ADHD stated that neurotherapy merited further research on the basis of several trials.
Esty herself conducted an NIH-funded study, published in 2001 Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, that showed dramatic improvements among brain-injured patients using EEG stimulation. “None of those people were expected to ever get better,” she says. “And we got a bunch of them back to work, not in volunteer jobs but working in their fields.”
FOR BOTH THERAPIES, the first step is to get what’s called a brain map. It’s like going to the cardiologist for an electrocardiogram (EKG), except the electrodes are stuck to your head instead of your chest. Like an EKG, the EEG reads electrical output. The therapist can see how your brain is-or is not-working and determine which waves need to be suppressed or increased.
A weil-functioning, uninjured brain works “with all the waves playing together in concert,” says Angelo Bolea, a neuropsychologist and neurofeedback therapist in Bethesda and Annapolis. Imagine an orchestra in which the string instruments drown out the wind section. That’s a brain out of whack. Depending on your brain’s discord, the consequences range from forgetfulness to cloudy thinking, headaches, depression, even autism.
Brain injury can be caused by a difficult birth, a chronic infection, chemomerapy, or a blow to the head.
Pair an injured brain with the wrong family history and you’ve got a very troubled kid-like Jeff, the Virginia teen who, according to his mother, inherited mental health problems on both sides of his family. Plus, when he was four, he ran his bike into a parked car, leaving an egg-shaped bump on his forehead.
Neurofeedback and EEG stimulation are sometimes used together.“Neurofeedback therapy is the only thing I know of that brings executive functioning back online,” says Anderson, the psychiatrist who treated Jeff. By executive functioning, he means prioritizing, sequencing, and shifting thoughts, the necessary tools to navigate through school, work, and life.
Anderson added the therapy to his practice five years ago after a psychologist friend told him about it. “I thought it was a little weird,” he says. Then he read the bible of neurofeedback therapy, A Symphony in the Brain, by Jim Robbins, went to a neurofeedback conference, and became a believer.
“It all made sense,” Anderson says. “There was comprehensive research that overwhelmingly demonstrated the effectiveness of neurofeedback therapy. I thought, this is science. This is not made-up crystal stuff.”
He sent his teenage daughter to Stokes, the Alexandria neurofeedback therapist who later treated Jeff, and to Esty, the Chevy Chase neurotherapist who uses EEG stimulation. The results, he says, were remarkable.
“She said it was like her brain suddenly woke up,” Anderson says.
I KNOW THE FEELING. When the therapists I interviewed for this story would tick off the symptoms of brain injury-fatigue, memory loss, dizziness, intolerance to cold, sensitivity to bright light and noise-I’d say, “Got that, got that, got that.” It turned out I was among the walking wounded.
As an infant, I fell off the changing table, head first. That later became a family joke whenever I did something weird. But no one ever made the connection between the fall and my restlessness and disruptive behavior in school.
“In my perfect world,” said Esty, “the minute a child shows attention disorder or disruptive behavior in a school, he or she would get neurofeedback therapy.”
My head injuries didn’t stop with my early fall. As an equestrian, I’ve had four significant knocks to my head, one requiring ten stitches and another rendering me amnesic for a half hour. There have been several falls that, at the time, didn’t seem serious enough to seek medical help.
Muriel Lezak, professor of neurology, psychiatry, and neurological surgery at Oregon Health & Science University, compares the brain to a computer. Imagine, she says, if someone took a hammer and knocked off a few connections here and a few connections there. The programs would run, but some would have a few small errors, slowing down the processing time. The more hits from the hammer, the slower the processing. The destruction of any connection creates a short circuit that has to be bypassed, and as a result, compensatory programs have to be developed, further slowing down processing time. That’s your brain after each injury.
I figured I’d had enough blows to the head to cause some kind of damage. But I’d chalked up all the symptoms – forgetfulness, fatigue, inertia, chronic head and neck aches, sensitivity to bright light and cold, brain fog–to the accumulating decades.
I DECIDED to give EEG stimulation a try. The only thing I had to lose was some money. Although EEG stimulation is covered by some insurance companies (for example, Kaiser Permanente), it is not covered by mine. The initial consult for the brain map costs $500. Each session is $90.
I’ve now had two brain maps-one by Stokes and the other by Esty. Both were revelatory. I was tempted to call my ex-husband and say ,”See, I wasn’t losing all those library books on purpose like you thought.”
No wonder I was tired all the time and it took me forever to get things done assuming they got done. My theta, delta, and alpha waves had invaded my waking hours, bullying my beta and SMR waves practically off the map. Delta and theta are supposed to be high during sleep or rest. Beta and SMR are the ones that get things done.
Back to the orchestra metaphor: My drums were banging so loud, my violinists had packed up and gone home. My conductor had thrown up his baton in despair and stomped off.
“You’re going through life underwater,” Esty said. “It’s like the heat’s on in the house, but it’s all escaping through the roof. ”She attached two electrodes and hit me with a picowatt of power. I felt nothing.
For three days, I felt nothing. Still losing things, still inert, still procrastinating. Then on Sunday, I found myself cleaning my car. I’d been thinking about doing that for about a year. After that, I moved all the houseplants back inside for the winter. I’d been thinking about doing that for more than a month. Then came my saddle, bridle, boots, chaps, and anything else leather I could find that hadn’t been cleaned in months. I chewed through my entire list of chores that had been rolling around in my head. And come 3 PM, when I’m usually ready for a nap, I was searching for more things to do.
“Wow,” was all my husband could say. “You got to keep this brain stuff up.” After my second treatment, when I lectured to my journalism class at Georgetown, I found every word I was looking for. Prior to that, I’d be in the middle of a sentence and forget the word for something as rudimentary as “deadline.” I also stopped losing my keys, a minor miracle in my house.
Before EEG stimulation, I’d stop the car, take out the keys, walk in the house, and, without thinking about it, put the keys down someplace. Later, when I went to look for them, I couldn’t remember anything after stopping the car.
Now, I’m fully aware of what I’m doing with the keys. Fully aware are the operative words. This may sound like a so-what to anyone who doesn’t have this problem. But it was life-changing for me.
I haven’t lost my keys in months, and I’m more productive than I’ve been in years. Most surprisingly, I’m not cold anymore. I actually enjoy winter. Will it last? Esty says yes. But if I start to slip, I know where I’m heading. Back to the brain-zapper machine.
As for Jeff, things keep getting better for him. In the past, he wrote poems about wanting to die. He recently wrote this:
The boy you hate is finally gone.
He has gone to experience what life never offered
Comfort, love, pleasure without pain and a stress free environment.
Without a rustle of leaves
Or a flutter of wings
He is gone forever.
He is forgotten in the blink of an eye,
Never to be thought of again,
For he is gone.
Jody Jaffe is author of the Nattie Gold mystery series and has also written the novels Shenandoah Summer and Thief of Words with her husband, John
Little research has been done, though, on the gluten-free/casein-free diet for autism. Consequently, many parents wonder whether this diet really does, in fact, make a difference in the symptoms of children with autism.
What is a gluten-free/casein-free diet for autism?
A gluten-free/casein-free diet is also known as the GFCF diet. It is one of several alternative treatments for children with autism. When following this strict elimination diet, all foods containing gluten ( found in wheat, barley and rye) and casein ( found in milk and dairy products) are removed from the child’s daily food intake.
Some parents of children with autism believe their children are allergic or sensitive to the components found in these foods. Some seek allergy testing for confirmation. Yet, even when no allergy is confirmed, many parents of autistic children still choose to offer the GFCF diet. Among the benefits they report are changes in speech and behavior.
How does a gluten-free/casein-free diet for autism work?
The benefit of a gluten-free/casein-free diet is based on the theory that children with autism may have an allergy or high sensitivity to foods containing gluten or casein. Children with autism, according to the theory, process peptides and proteins in foods containing gluten and casein differently than other people do. Hypothetically, this difference in processing may exacerbate autistic symptoms. Some believe that the brain treats these proteins like false opiate-like chemicals. The reaction to these chemicals, they say, leads a child to act in a certain way. The idea behind the use of the diet is to reduce symptoms and improve social and cognitive behaviors and speech.
There may be some scientific merit to the reasoning behind a gluten-free/casein-free diet. Researchers have found abnormal levels of peptides in bodily fluids of some people who have symptoms of autism. Still, the effectiveness of a GFCF diet for autism has not been supported by medical research; in fact, a review of recent and past studies concluded there is a lack of scientific evidence to say whether this diet can be helpful or not.
Unfortunately, eliminating all sources of gluten and casein is so difficult that conducting randomized clinical trials in children may prove to be very difficult.
Which foods contain gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in the seeds of several grains such as barley, rye, and wheat. A huge number of foods contain gluten. Gluten provides structure or binding to baked products. While it’s quite difficult to avoid gluten, many stores, particularly natural food stores, display foods in a gluten-free area of the store. Still, it’s important to read nutrition labels to see if there are additives containing gluten.
When someone is on a gluten-free diet, most bread and grain products are forbidden. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the child (or other person) receives ample fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Supplementation can help make up for the lack of these nutrients when foods containing gluten are eliminated.
Which foods contain casein?
Casein is a protein found in dairy products and other foods containing dairy or lactose. Even foods proclaiming to be dairy-free or lactose-free contain casein. Because many soy products and imitation dairy products also contain casein, it’s important to read labels carefully when following a strict casein free diet.
Because the GFCF diet for autism restricts dairy products, you’ll need to make sure the child’s diet has other good sources of calcium and vitamin D. Both are necessary for strong bones and teeth. Talk with your child’s doctor about fortified foods and/or supplementation to avoid any nutritional deficiencies.
Are there tips for eating at home or eating out on a gluten-free/casein-free diet?
There are a large number of online retailers who specialize in food products for people following the GFCF diet. Some parents make GFCF food in large quantities and freeze portions for a later meal.
Before making the change to a GFCF diet, consult your child’s doctor. A licensed dietitian can educate you about the GFCF diet and help you tailor the diet to your child’s health needs and taste preferences.
In addition, before starting a child with autism on a gluten-free/casein-free diet, beware the hidden sources of gluten. Gluten can be found in fried foods that are dusted in flour and even in cosmetics. Whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts may be safe. But avoid using packaged mixes because there may be traces of foods containing gluten that are not listed on the nutrition label.
Some restaurants are now categorized as GFCF-friendly. If you are concerned, ask the manager or server to show you a list of ingredients used in the establishment to make sure its dishes are gluten- and casein-free. Vegetarian/vegan restaurants are accustomed to serving people on special diets and may be more willing to prepare dishes that adhere to the restrictions of a strict GFCF diet.
Article Source: www.webmd.com
A high-protein meal in the morning can help your ADHD child learn through the rest of the day.
Research suggests that a good breakfast helps a child do better in school. A 1998 study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, showed that children who ate breakfast regularly had higher reading and math scores, lower levels ofdepression, anxiety, and hyperactivity, better school attendance, improved attention spans, and fewer behavior problems.
For children with ADHD, the menu matters, too. In a 1983 study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, researchers at George Washington University tested three breakfast types (high-carbohydrate, high-protein, and no breakfast at all) on 39 children with ADHD and 44 kids without the condition.
For the hyperactive children, performance on several tests, including a test for attention, was significantly worse with the high-carbohydrate breakfast, as compared with the scores of the children who ate the high-protein breakfast.
Maryanne discussed Steve’s breakfast problems with her doctor, and they developed some strategies. He suggested that Maryanne and Steve get up 15 minutes earlier, to give her more time to prepare breakfast, and advised that Steve take his medication with his meal rather than just after waking up, to delay the appetite suppression.
Finally, they discussed how to get more high-protein foods into her son’s diet. Their list included lean meats and poultry, eggs, unprocessed nuts and seeds, and low-fat milk or milk products, as well as complex carbohydrates, such as whole-grain cereals and bread and fresh fruits.
Here are some easy breakfasts that Maryanne put on Steve’s menu. Most can be eaten in the car on the way to school.
- Natural peanut butter on whole-grain bread, with a dab of all-fruit jam.
- Eggs; glass of orange juice. To save time, make hard-boiled or deviled eggs the night before.
- Slice of whole-grain bread with a little whipped butter or margarine and a dab of all-fruit jam; low-fat milk.
- Whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk; lean meat from last night’s dinner (pork chop, chicken); orange sections.
- Plain yogurt with fresh fruit.
- Grilled-cheese sandwich made with whole-grain bread and two-percent cheese; glass of orange juice.
- Homemade instant breakfast shake or sausage patties (see recipes, left sidebar).
- Mixed nuts; fruit; glass of low-fat milk.
***This article comes from the Spring issue of ADDitude***
By ANAHAD O’CONNOR
Patients aren’t the only ones interested in alternative and complementary medicine. In an occasional series, Well talks to doctors around the country to find out what nontraditional medicines or therapies they sometimes recommend or use themselves.
Physician: Dr. Lawrence D. Rosen, chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Integrative Medicine, and a pediatrician at the Whole Child Center in Oradell, N.J.
Recommended Remedy: Biofeedback devices for stress
What the Doctor Says:Biofeedback devices typically weigh only a couple of ounces and look something like an iPod. Pressing your thumb to sensors on the devices allows them to take your pulse and measure changes in your heart rate. The devices then use audible cues, flashing lights and graphics to guide you to breathe in a way that has a calming effect.
Dr. Rosen prefers using the emWave brand of biofeedback devices, which he says helps his nervous patients relax before operations. While he’s used he device successfully on people of all ages, children take to it especially quickly, treating it like a video game. Dr. Rosen said they get a kick out of watching the colors change as their breathing slows.
“I teach them really simple little breathing techniques, and we work on synchronizing their breathing with their heartbeat,” he said. “When they see the green light show up on the meter, that shows them that they’re doing it effectively. And when they need work, it’s at red. You can teach them how to control their breathing in a way that positively affects their heart rate variability. And not only do they feel more relaxed, but the body’s physiology changes. We can measure hormone levels that show that the body is in a less stressed state.”
Dr. Rosen, who has no financial or personal ties to the company that sells the device, Heart Math, said he’s tried other calming techniques with children but finds that they get distracted too easily.
“I can sit with a kid for an hour and work on yoga, but they get bored,” he said. “You need something that’s appealing and quick. This is immediate visual feedback. I’ve used it on people as young as 3 years old and up to 103.”
Dr. Rosen uses it not only in his practice, but also at home with his children and relatives. Recently he went on a family trip to Cambodia and took an emWave along for his children.
“It’s an 18-hour flight,” he said. “We definitely used it with the takeoff and landing. On a few of the boat trips that we had there, it was really effective to carry it with us.”
What the Science Shows: A number of studies have found evidence that biofeedback devices can help reduce stress in hospital settings, though they have mostly been small and not always placebo-controlled. In a study at the Royal Free Hospital in London, researchers tested the effects of a computer biofeedback game on 40 patients with irritable bowel syndrome, a stress-related disorder. They found that it helped teach relaxation “rapidly and effectively,” and reduced some symptoms. Another small study, published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics in 2010, found that a biofeedback video game that focused on breathing techniques benefited children with cystic fibrosis.
The Caveats: Biofeedback devices aren’t cheap. The emWave2, for example, which can be ordered online, costs about $230.
***This Article comes from The New York Times Health and Science Magazine, MAY 22, 2012, Photo: by David McNew/Getty Images***
Helping Children with Attention Deficit Disorder
Life with a child with ADD/ADHD can be frustrating and overwhelming, but as a parent there is actually a lot you can do. The symptoms of ADD/ADHD can be controlled and reduced. You have the power to help your child meet his or her daily challenges and channel his or her energy into positive arenas—and at the same time bring greater calm and order to your family home.
Children with ADD/ADHD can and do succeed. The earlier and more consistently
you address your child’s problems, the more likely their success.
Helping your child with ADD/ADHD: What you
need to know
Children with ADD/ADHD generally have deficits in executive
function: the ability to think and plan ahead, organize, control impulses,
and complete tasks. That means you need to take over as the executive, providing
extra guidance while your child gradually acquires executive skills of his or
Although the symptoms of ADD/ADHD can be nothing short of exasperating, it’s
important to remember that the child with ADD/ADHD who is ignoring, annoying, or
embarrassing you is not acting willfully. Kids with ADD/ADHD want to sit
quietly; they want to make their rooms tidy and organized; they want to do
everything their parent says to do—but they don’t know how to make these things
Having ADD/ADHD can be just as frustrating as dealing with someone who has
it. If you keep this in mind, it will be a lot easier to respond to you child in
positive, supportive ways. With patience, compassion, and plenty of support, you
can manage childhood ADHD while enjoying a stable, happy home.
ADD/ADHD and the family
Before you can successfully parent a child with ADD/ADHD, it’s essential to
understand the impact of your child’s symptoms on the family as a whole.
Children with ADD/ADHD exhibit a slew of behaviors that can disrupt family
- They often don’t “hear” parental instructions, so they don’t obey them.
- They’re disorganized and easily distracted, keeping other family members
- They start projects and forget to finish them — let alone clean up after
- Children with impulsivity issues often interrupt conversations and demand
attention at inappropriate times.
- They might speak before they think, saying tactless or embarrassing things.
- It’s often difficult to get them to bed and to sleep.
- Hyperactive children may tear around the house or even do things that put
them in physical danger.
The impact of ADD/ADHD on siblings
Because of these behaviors, siblings of children with ADD/ADHD face a number
- Their needs often get less attention than those of the child with ADD/ADHD.
- They may be rebuked more sharply when they err, and their successes may be
less celebrated or taken for granted.
- They may be enlisted as assistant parents — and blamed if the sibling with
ADD/ADHD misbehaves under their supervision.
- As a result, siblings may find their love for a brother or sister with
ADD/ADHD mixed with jealousy and resentment.
The impact of ADD/ADHD on parents
And, of course, having a child with ADD/ADHD affects parents in many
- The demands of a child with ADD/ADHD can be physically exhausting.
- The need to monitor the child’s activities and actions can be
- The child’s inability to “listen” is frustrating.
- The child’s behaviors, and your knowledge of their consequences, can make
you anxious and stressed.
- If there’s a basic difference between your personality and that of your
child with ADD/ADHD, you may find your child’s behaviors especially difficult to
- Frustration can lead to anger — and guilt about being angry at your child.
In order to meet the challenges of raising a child with ADD/ADHD, you must to
be able to master a combination of compassion and consistency.
Living in a home that provides both love and structure is the best thing for a
child or teenager who is learning to manage ADD/ADHD.
As a parent, you set the stage for your child’s emotional and physical
health. You have control over many of the factors that can positively influence
the symptoms of your child’s disorder.
The power of a positive attitude
Your best assets for helping your child meet the challenges of ADD/ADHD are
your positive attitude and common sense. When you are calm and focused, you are
more likely to be able to connect with your child, helping him or her to be calm
and focused as well.
- Keep things in perspective. Remember that your child’s
behavior is related to a disorder. Most of the time it is not intentional. Hold
on to your sense of humor. What’s embarrassing today may be a funny family story
ten years from now.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff and be willing to make some
compromises. One chore left undone isn’t a big deal when your child has
completed two others plus the day’s homework. If you are a perfectionist, you
will not only be constantly dissatisfied but also create impossible expectations
for your ADD/ADHD child.
- Believe in your child. Think about or make a written list of everything that is positive, valuable, and unique about your child. Trust that your child can learn, change, mature, and succeed. Make thinking about this trust a daily task as you brush your teeth or make your coffee.
When you take care of yourself, you’re better able to take care of your
As your child’s role model and most important source of strength, it is vital
that you live healthfully. If you are overtired or have simply run out of
patience, you risk losing sight of the structure and support you have so
carefully set up for your child with ADD/ADHD.
- Take care of yourself. Eat right, exercise, and find ways
to reduce stress, whether it means taking a nightly bath or practicing morning
meditation. If you do get sick, acknowledge it and get help.
- Seek support. One of the most important things to remember
in rearing a child with ADD/ADHD is that you don’t have to do it alone. Talk to
your child’s doctors, therapists, and teachers. Join an organized support group
for parents of children with ADHD. These groups offer a forum for giving and
receiving advice, and provide a safe place to vent feelings and share
- Take breaks. Friends and family can be wonderful about
offering to babysit, but you may feel guilty about leaving your child, or
leaving the volunteer with a child with ADD/ADHD. Next time, accept their offer
and discuss honestly how best to handle your child.
ADD/ADHD parenting tip 2: Establish structure and
stick to it
Children with ADHD are more likely to succeed in completing tasks when the
tasks occur in predictable patterns and in predictable places. Your job is to
create and sustain structure in your home, so that your child knows what to
expect and what they are expected to do.
Tip for helping your child with ADD/ADHD stay focused and organized
- Follow a routine. It is important to set a time and a place
for everything to help the child with ADD/ADHD understand and meet expectations.
Establish simple and predictable rituals for meals, homework, play, and bed.
Have your child lay out clothes for the next morning before going to bed, and
make sure whatever he or she needs to take to school is in a special place,
ready to grab.
- Use clocks and timers. Consider placing clocks throughout
the house, with a big one in your child’s bedroom. Allow enough time for what
your child needs to do, such as homework or getting ready in the morning. Use a
timer for homework or transitional times, such between finishing up play and
getting ready for bed.
- Simplify your child’s schedule. It is good to avoid idle
time, but a child with ADHD may become more distracted and “wound up” if there
are many after-school activities. You may need to make adjustments to the
child’s after-school commitments based on the individual child’s abilities and
the demands of particular activities.
- Create a quiet place. Make sure your child has a quiet,
private space of his or her own. A porch or a bedroom work well too, as long as
it’s notthe same place as the child goes for a time-out.
- Do your best to be neat and organized. Set up your home in
an organized way. Make sure your child knows that everything has its place.
Role model neatness and organization as much as possible.
Avoid problems by keeping kids with attention deficit disorder busy!
For kids with ADD/ADHD, idle time may exacerbate their symptoms and create
chaos in your home. It is important to keep a child with ADD/ADHD busy without
piling on so many things that the child becomes overwhelmed.
Sign your child up for a sport, art class, or music. At home, organize simple
activities that fill up your child’s time. These can be tasks like helping you
cook, playing a board game with a sibling, or drawing a picture. Try not to
over-rely on the television or computer/video games as time-fillers.
Unfortunately, TV and video games are increasingly violent in nature and may
only increase your child’s symptoms of ADD/ADHD.
ADD/ADHD parenting tip 3: Set clear expectations
Children with ADHD need consistent rules that they can understand and follow.
Make the rules of behavior for the family simple and clear. Write down the rules
and hang them up in a place where your child can easily read them.
Children with ADD/ADHD respond particularly well to organized systems of
rewards and consequences. It’s important to explain what will happen when the
rules are obeyed and when they are broken. Finally, stick to your system: follow
through each and every time with a reward or a consequence.
Don’t forget praise and positive reinforcement
As you establish these consistent structures, keep in mind that children with
ADHD often receive criticism. Be on the lookout for good behavior—and praise it.
Praise is especially important for children who have ADD/ADHD because they
typically get so little of it. These children receive correction, remediation,
and complaints about their behavior—but little positive reinforcement.
A smile, positive comment, or other reward from you can improve the
attention, concentration and impulse control of your child with ADD/ADHD. Do
your best to focus on giving positive praise for appropriate behavior and task
completion, while giving as few negative responses as possible to inappropriate
behavior or poor task performance. Reward your child for small achievements that
you might take for granted in another child.
ADD/ADHD parenting tip 4: Encourage movement and
Physical activity can help your child with ADD/ADHD
Children with ADD/ADHD often have energy to burn. Organized sports and other
physical activities can help them get their energy out in healthy ways and focus
their attention on specific movements and skills.
The benefits of physical activity are endless: it improves concentration,
decreases depression and anxiety, and promotes brain growth. Most importantly
for children with attention deficits, however, is the fact that exercise leads
to better sleep, which in turn can also reduce the symptoms of ADD/ADHD.
Find a sport that your child will enjoy and that suits his or her strengths.
For example, sports such as softball that involve a lot of “down time” are not
the best fit for children with attention problems. Individual or team sports
like basketball and hockey that require constant motion are better options.
Children with ADD/ADHD may also benefit from martial arts training, tae kwon
do, or yoga, which enhance mental control as they work out the body.
Better sleep can help your child with ADD/ADHD
Insufficient sleep can make anyone less attentive, but it can be highly
detrimental for children with ADD/ADHD. Kids with ADD/ADHD need at least as much
sleep as their unaffected peers, but tend not to get what they need. Their
attention problems can lead to overstimulation and trouble falling asleep. A
consistent, early bedtime is the most helpful strategy to combat this problem,
but it may not completely solve it.
Help your child get better rest by trying out one or more of the following
- Decrease television time and increase your child’s
activities and exercise levels during the day.
- Eliminate caffeinefrom your child’s diet.
- Create a buffer time to lower down the activity level for an hour or
so before bedtime. Find quieter activities such as coloring, reading or
- Spend ten minutes cuddling with your child. This will build
a sense of love and security as well as provide a time to calm down.
- Use lavender or other aromas in your child’s room. The
scent may help to calm your child.
- Use relaxation tapes as background noise for your child
when falling asleep. There are many varieties available including nature sounds
and calming music. Children with ADD/ADHD often find “white noise” to be
calming. You can create white noise by putting a radio on static or running an
The benefits of “green time” in kids with attention deficit disorder
Research shows that children with ADD/ADHD benefit from spending time in
nature. Kids experience a greater reduction of symptoms of ADD/ADHD when they
play in a park full of grass and trees than on a concrete playground. Take note
of this promising and simple approach to managing ADD/ADHD. Even in cities, most
families have access to parks and other natural settings. Join your children in
this “green time”—you’ll also get a much-deserved breath of fresh air for
Diet is not a direct cause of attention deficit disorder, but food can and
does affect your child’s mental state, which in turn seems to affect behavior.
Monitoring and modifying what, when, and how much your child eats can help
decrease the symptoms of ADD/ADHD.
All children benefit from fresh foods, regular meal times, and
staying away from junk food. These tenets are especially true for children with
ADD/ADHD, whose impulsiveness and distractedness can lead to missed meals,
disordered eating, and overeating.
Eating small meals more often may help your child’s ADD/ADHD
Children with ADD/ADHD are notorious for not eating regularly. Without
parental guidance, these children might not eat for hours and then binge on
whatever is around. The result of this pattern can be devastating to the child’s
physical and emotional health.
Prevent unhealthy eating habits by scheduling regular nutritious meals or
snacks for your child no more than three hours apart. Physically, a child with
ADD/ADHD needs a regular intake of healthy food; mentally, meal times are a
necessary break and a scheduled rhythm to the day.
- Get rid of the junk foods in your home.
- Put fatty and sugary foods off-limits when eating out.
- Turn off television shows riddled with junk-food ads.
- Give your child a daily vitamin-and-mineral supplement.
|Kids with ADD/ADHD: Using Rewards
Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.
This Article comes from www.helpguide.org
by Steve Gillman
How do you choose the relaxation music that works best? You can certainly start by experimenting with many different types. After all, it seems likely that what one person finds relaxing another will find irritating. But is it all just a matter of personal preference?
Actually no. Though ones personal tastes enter into the equation, there are reasons that some types of music are more relaxing than others. For example, both science and the experience of many people point to the usefulness of baroque music for relaxation. Studies have shown that baroque music at 60 beats per minute causes your brain to produce more alpha brainwaves. Why does that matter? More on that in a moment. For now, here are some specific examples of good relaxation music.
“Harpsichord Concerto in F Minor,” by J.S. Bach
“Concerto No.10 in F Major from Twelve Concerti Grossi,” by A. Corelli
“Winter” from “The Four Seasons,” by A. Vivaldi
“Canon in D,” by Pachelbel
“Adagio in G Minor for Strings,” by Albinoni
Often it’s just a passage from these that has the most relaxing effect. In the first three examples above, the movements referred to as “largo” work best.
What other types of music help people relax? Light jazz (try Luther Vandross) works for some. Eastern music, like that which uses the Indian Sitar, is another favorite (try Ravi Shankar). Generic easy listening music with sounds of nature mixed in is a common choice as well.
Any of the music in these examples is relatively inexpensive. Even the best “sounds of nature” and “easy listening” relaxation CDs are usually no more than twenty-five dollars. However, if you’re willing to spend a bit more, there is a more scientific approach to using relaxation music.
Altering Your Brainwaves
Some types of music work better than others because of what they do to our brainwaves. Our brains primarily produce brainwaves at 14 – 30 hertz (cycles-per-second) during normal waking consciousness. In this frequency range they are referred to as “beta” waves. Frequencies from 8 – 14 hertz are “alpha” waves, which are present when we are more relaxed. Around 4 – 8 hertz is the “theta” range, accompanied by a deeper meditative or drowsy state. Finally, during deep sleep delta waves (below 5 hertz) are produced.
Meditation stimulates the more relaxing states of consciousness especially if it is regularly practiced. The good news, if you don’t have the time nor inclination to meditate, is that music which has been embedded with certain beats works in the same way. This is the basis for the newest brainwave entrainment technologies, based on decades of research. Simply listen to these CDs or MP3s with headphones and they alter your brainwaves, causing a quick relaxation response.
In other words, if you’re willing to spend a little more, you get true relaxation technology. Also, these products generally have pleasant music for a background too (though some use rain or wave sounds). That makes them the best kind of relaxation music in my experience.
Copyright Steve Gillman.
Article Source: http://www.positivearticles.com
Most of us need to depend upon a calendar every day in order to retain ourselves organized. Students have calendars on the net which offer a new word each day on them. Doing so is a fantastic chance for you to expand the vocabulary and to boost the mind. Try to use the new word that you find out at least three occasions that day. It can be fun producing using creative means to insert it into discussions.
Once you use these new words three times in a day, it should improve using your memory. You will be able to keep in mind what the word is and the which means of it for a large amount of lengthy time. You wish to be able to do far more with it than just to use it which one day and then tend to forget regarding it. You don’t have to use phrases that are huge or that won’t fit into anything you discuss either.
If you don’t possess this kind of a calendar available, use a dictionary. Merely flip it open to any page and pick out a term to discover on. It is possible to also start out at the initial lexicon and function your way in it. Compile a proceedure that pursuits very well for you and afterwards stay to it. Once you get into the habit of performing this every day you will start off to look forward to it. You will uncover which your vocabulary is speedily expanding also.
In truth international students have most certain kinds of phrases that you are able choose to discover on. Quite a bit of them can be precise to a career or various sort of environment. Lots of people get pleasure from these types of term studying glute workouts because these folks realize which they will be able to actively use them in their every day life. It may be tougher to locate those materials in your neighborhood however but you will possess no problems finding them online.
What lots of people locate as they start out to find out a synonyms every day is that these folks are limited in their vocabulary. Sure, you may have thousands of lines that you use but the fact is that you use them at the time of and over again. If you do a great many writing for the job you want to through in some new words to stir items up. Individuals which read it will notice that they aren’t receiving the same old things which they see from every person else. Thus exercising your brain in therefore can really improve you to increase in the ranks using the employer too.
Mother and father can assist young children to exercise their brains in this way too. For instance the complete family can possess a regimen of understanding a synonyms per day. Then every person can use that term in a dialog that night at dinner. If these folks had been capable to do the job it into conversations throughout the day likewise after that which should be shared. This is a great way for the total family to do their ideal to possess brains which are exercised and in good shape.
Students have also a lot of fun term sports that you are able play online too. This is a really good difference of learning a synonyms each and every day. It is possible to play them whenever you get the chance. A lot of them have quite a few ranges too from newcomers to superior so start off where the standard is now and after that work the way up from there.
By Charis Grey
Many parents are reluctant to medicate a child who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Adults with the disorder also may resist medication because of concerns about side effects or a desire to avoid the stigma of taking prescription drugs. Fortunately, non-medication treatments are typically a doctor’s first choice when dealing with the disorder. Without treatment, ADHD may cause devastating difficulties at home, in the workplace, and in social situations.
The National Resource Center on ADHD describes behavior modification, also referred to as psychosocial treatment, as “the only nonmedical treatment for ADHD with a large scientific basis”.
Behavior modification starts with noting the causes or situations that trigger behaviors. These causes are called “antecedents”. The consequences of these behaviors are also taken into account.
By altering the cause of a particular behavior, as well as its consequences, parents of children with ADHD may intervene to help prevent the child from acting out. Behavior modification therapy trains parents to manage a child’s aggression more effectively, establish consistent rules, and reward good behavior.
The Mayo Clinic lists psychotherapy as a form of counseling that may be helpful in treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Older children and adults may benefit from private or group sessions with a trained psychotherapist who specializes in the disorder.
In these sessions the patients discuss their anxieties, concerns and fears, and acknowledge the negative patterns that result in ADHD behaviors. The psychotherapist may offer information and advice about how the patient can respond more constructively to their symptoms.
Alternative treatments claim to alleviate the symptoms of ADHD, but for most of them, the evidence is anecdotal and not backed by well-controlled research. These alternative treatments include dietary changes, herbal supplements, sensory integration training, and treatment for candida yeast overgrowth.
The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that one type of alternative treatment, using biologic or auditory feedback, is showing great promise as a method of treating ADHD. Feedback therapies include neurofeedback, wherein the patient is taught certain “high level mental activities” while monitoring his own brain wave activity, which is being detected by electrodes on the head.
Interactive metronome and musical therapies use auditory feedback to increase attention span, motor control and learning skills. These therapies involve listening to computer-generated rhythms while performing exercises in time to the beat.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: ADHD – Other Treatments
- Mayo Clinic: ADHD Treatments and Drugs
- The National Resource Center on ADHD: Psychosocial Treatment for Children and Adolescents with AD/HD
Article reviewed by Ecliptic Extremes Last updated on: Nov 30, 2011
By Erin Beck
Nearly 9 percent of American children have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, according to the “Washington Post.” Children with ADHD often have difficulty paying attention in school, leading to lower grades. They may also have trouble with social skills, causing relationship problems. While ADHD medications may calm your child down, they may not improve grades, peer relationships or defiant behavior over the long term, according to “Scientific American Magazine.”
Neurofeedback may work to treat ADHD symptoms, according to NPR. This intervention involves sitting in a chair facing a laptop screen with electrodes applied to your scalp. Special software monitors rhythmic patterns known as theta and beta waves, electrical activity in your brain. The image on the screen changes depending on the attentiveness of your brain state. This training can take 40 sessions or more, and typically costs thousands of dollars.
Working Memory Training
Children with ADHD have problems with working memory, the ability to hold in mind information to guide behavior. Using cognitive training software programs can help children with ADHD improve working memory, according to a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Children treated with behavioral therapy only may function just as well as children treated with medication, reports unpublished data from the Multimodal Treatment Study. Cogmed, a company that produces working memory training software, claims their product can improve attention, concentration, focus, impulse control, social skills and complex reasoning skills.
Neurofeedback may work by normalizing the functioning of the anterior cingulate cortex, the key neural substrate of selective attention, found a 2006 study in Neuroscience Letters. Cognitive training may work by mimicking the effects of psychostimulant medication on the brain, according to a 2010 study in Human Brain Mapping. Elseline Hoekzema and colleagues found that children who completed a 10-day cognitive training program displayed enhanced activity in neural structures closely related to ADHD, including the orbitofrontal, superior frontal, middle temporal, and inferior frontal cortex.
- “Scientific American Magazine:” Training the Brain
- “Washington Post:” 9% of U.S. Kids Have ADHD
- Cogmed: Frequently Asked Questions
- Wiley Online Library: Enhanced Neural Activity in Frontal and Cerebellar Circuits After Cognitive Training in Children With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
- NPR: Train The Brain: Using Neurofeedback To Treat ADHD
- Science Direct: Effect of Neurofeedback Training on the Neural Substrates of Selective Attention in Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study
Article reviewed by WendyN Last updated on: Jun 14, 2011
the Difference between Biofeedback and Neurofeedback?
Biofeedback is the general term for any therapeutic intervention that uses medical equipment to
monitor a body function that is otherwise outside of our awareness (a blood pressure cuff, a thermometer, a PET scan are all medical devices that can be used for biofeedback interventions).
Neurofeedback specifically refers to biofeedback interventions using brain wave readings (also called an electroencephalogram).
So, what is Neurofeedback?
Since birth we are always receiving feedback from our environment ; it is the primary way to learn a new skill. Learning how to ride a bike can literally be considered as a form of biofeedback. In this scenario, the
brain is receiving feedback from gravity on its state of balance. The brain learns how to regulate its state of balance while balancing on two wheels, and riding a bike becomes a new skill. After a short while, you do not have to think about how to ride a bike, the new skill becomes permanent. Neurofeedback works
exactly the same way.
If we cut our hand, we can see the problem right away; then we can either apply a Band-Aid or go to hospital for stitches. With brain issues we can not see the problem. We can only experience and describe the symptoms and how they affect our life. With Neurofeedback sensors are placed on the scalp and the software converts brain signals into audio and visual information; so that the brain can see itself in action. Instantaneously, it gets information on more or less productive states. Neurofeedback works as an electronic mirror. When the brain sees itself in action, it learns how to operate in a more functional
Neurofeedback is a safe solution for:
- Academic performance problems
- Bipolar disorder
- Head trauma
- Headaches/Migraines (biofeedback migraine
- Learning disorders
- Pain OCD/PTSD
- Substance abuse
- Seizure disorder