What About Neurofeedback Instead Of Drugs?

When our son was diagnosed with ADHD approximately four years ago, we looked into a drug free treatment for it and stumbled upon neurofeedback (NFB). We never did take the pharmaceutical route, but it wasn’t until this past January (four years later) that we finally jumped in feet first and committed to the neurofeedback for our son. He was 10 yrs old. Our son had difficulty focusing, self-initiation of work, emotional and impulse control, incomplete classwork, couldn’t take notes during lectures, or do his homework without my constant nagging, prodding and watchful eye.

Oh, how I wished we had saved him years of frustration, poor self-esteem, forgetfulness and difficulty with school and homework by doing this back when he was 7 yrs. old.  It is by far the most effective treatment for ADD/ADHD I have ever experienced. We’ve done biomedical treatments for him which has eliminated a lot of symptoms, but his brain neurons needed more help. I highly recommend incorporating biomeds or at the bare minimum, a clean diet with neurofeedback.

The brain is going to need all the support it can get and the first thing you should do before starting NFB is to change the diet. By eating fruit and veggies with less pesticides, no artificial dyes/flavors/preservatives, eliminating msg, nitrites and sulfites. Yes, that means cut out Gatorade, Flamin Hot Cheetos, Skittles, Beef Jerky, cured meats and add in whole grains, lean protein, fruits and vegetables. Oh the horror! Trust me, the pay off is well worth the pain of denying a 9 yr. old his request to stop at 7Eleven for his favorite junk food run.

What is Neurofeedback?

Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback. In biofeedback, information about some part of your body is fed back to you, and you are able to gain control over yourself in a way previously unavailable.

In neurofeedback the information that is fed back to you is EEG (electroencephalogram) data read by sensors placed on your head. Very tiny amounts of electric energy are read and processed by electronic and computer equipment to provide you with moment by moment information about your brain activity.

Brain cells communicate with one another, in part, through a constant storm of electrical impulses. Their patterns show up on an electroencephalogram, or EEG, as brain waves with different frequencies. NFB practitioners first create a “brain map”, the initial EEG readings on their patient to serve as a guide for treatment.

Excessive fast or slow activity is associated with brain dysregulation, and a variety of clinical symptoms.  For example, my son’s EEG showed high Theta waves which are responsible for our daydream state. That explained why he “zoned” out in class and daydreamed, lacked focus and attention. The EEG can show which areas of the brain have high or low wave frequency, or when parts of the brain aren’t communicating adequately with other parts.  Training changes in that activity helps improve self-regulation.

This activity is shown to the neurofeedback therapist as wave patterns on a computer screen, and to patients as visual graphics–ranging from cars racing one another to rapidly changing side by side puzzles. The NFB practitioner will help the patient speed up or slow down the brain waves. The goal is explained to the patient (make one car go faster than the other), and the brain learns how to make that happen without the person knowing how they do it. A sound also beeps when the brain behaves as desired, which helps. Simply wanting to hear the beeps seems to be enough to get the brain to cooperate. This is known as operant conditioning, which forms an association between a behavior and a consequence.

Why do neurofeedback?

When you or your child has difficulty paying attention, or has feelings of depression or anxiety, or perhaps can’t stop thinking about something, is it a psychological or a physiological problem?

Utilizing neurofeedback to train the brain can change these problems.  This is a short list of what NFB can improve:

  • alertness
  • attention
  • emotional regulation
  • behavior
  • cognitive function and mental flexibility

Some of the conditions NFB is used to treat are:

  • ADD/ADHD
  • Autism
  • Epilepsy/seizures
  • Migraines
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

When you change the brain, it undoubtedly affects the mind.  The NFB training produces a measurable physiological effect on the brain.  When you give the brain information about itself, it has an enormous capacity for change.  Neurofeedback makes the information available to the brain almost instantly, and asks it to make adjustments.  The brain can respond rapidly.  Changes in the EEG due to feedback tend to correlate with improved behavior, mood, affect regulation and attention.

Our Success Story

Neurofeedback is usually done in 1/2 hr sessions, one to three times per week. Approximately 30-40 sessions are the standard for optimal change in brain waves. After the first 10 sessions, about 3 weeks into the therapy, I noticed the first dramatic change in my son. He no longer displayed oppositional behaviors and his emotion regulation was normal. He used to anger or get frustrated easily, but that was changed to a more normal emotional response. About the 20th session, his teacher at school noticed his ability to start his work independently. He was able to complete his work 75% of time and it was improving with each session. By the end of 40 sessions, my son was able to focus in school, complete assignments, take notes, write paragraphs unassisted, start and finish his homework by himself.

NFB is not covered by most health insurance and can be costly. The price ranges between $3,000- $5,000 for the brain map and 4o sessions. The good news is that NFB changes are permanent. As a parent that has forgone new living room furniture, a new car in the past 7 years, and countless other material things, the cost was well worth the payoff for my child and my sanity!  NFB works.  All I can say is if you are considering it, do it now. Don’t put it off until “we can afford it”. Work it out and it can change your child’s life. It has mine.

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8 Responses

  1. Hi,
    I stumble upon your website when I do my search on the internet. I loved reading your blog. They give me inspiration on what I can do to help my ADHD son (4 years old). We’ve been on Feingold diet since Feb this year and saw no improvement. We removed dairy from his diet last year and saw a big changes on his behaviour. He is much calmer without dairy. We also trying neurofeedback right now. So far we’re on the first treatment only. How many sessions did you start notice any different in your son? Our neurofeedback treatment is done once a week for 1 hr each session.

    • We started out with 3 treatments a week for the first two weeks and then went to two treatments a week. They were 30-40 min sessions. We noticed a profound difference in his ODD around 10 treatments. He was calmer, less volatile in his temper and just agreeable. Then around 15 or 20 treatments we noticed the difference in focus/attention/completing classwork, etc. NFB along with biomedical treatments has changed my son. Homework isn’t so difficult anymore. He is motivated and a self-starter now. Keep up the good work on helping your son without medications!

  2. Thank you for your prompt reply. Your son’s improvement sounds really motivating. Neurofeedback is really expensive but as long as there’s a sign of hope…I will try anything to avoid medication. I am currently trying out Biomedical approach although haven’t seen much improvement with this either. I am scheduling an appointment with naturopathic soon. I am hoping the doctor can help me to identify vitamin deficiencies as well as food alergies. I didn’t see your blog on naturopathic. I am just wondering if you have any input on this.

    I am currently trying out chiropractic as well. If you have any suggestions on what else to try, please do let me know. I want to try out everything before he start kindergarten next year.

    Thanks again for your help.

    • Are you using a DAN doctor and have you run any labs on him? Biomedical is sometimes a process of elimination as much as doing empirical trials of some supps with your child. A DAN doctor can run labs to determine vitamin deficiencies and food allergies. I have not used a naturopathic and don’t have any input on that area. I have read of families that swear by and have had great success. If you look into a chiropractor, try to find one that does Cranial Sacral therapy. You can find out more about it on the web, just Google it.
      Also, if removing dairy from your son’s diet was effective, you should try wheat/gluten too. He sounds like a responder to the peptides that those foods produce and can cause behaviors, brain fog, etc. He may have gut issues too, have you tried treating yeast or bacteria?

  3. No I am not using a DAN doctor right now. I tried biomedical approach on my own…I know I am getting ahead of myself here…but I was desperate and just want to try out everything for my son. Anyway, I just found a naturopathic doctor who is also a DAN certified doctor. Hopefully I can schedule an appointment with her soon and able to find someone to help me with biomedical approach.

    I removed Gluten and casein from his diet last year and I saw the difference in his behaviour but our psychologist insisted that we removed him from the diet because it’s too restrictive. She also convinced me that my son doesn’t fit the criteria of someone with gluten intolerance (diarhea etc). Also for some reason…my husband also think that the improvement might be because our son has mature more. So after our hardwork for two months, we were back to adding gluten on our diet. We didn’t notice the difference right away, but over the time…his behaviour change and never the same as when he was on gluten free casein free diet. It was different with milk…as soon as I tried adding milk back to our diet…his behaviour change drastically. That’s why we’re sticking to casein free diet.

    Anyway, right now I am trying to do the gluten free diet again. Have you heard of caveman diet? I am just wondering if I should do caveman diet first or gluten free diet first.

    As for the gut issues, I gave him BIO K + probiotic (dairy free-gluten free) everyday since last year. It contains 50 billions bacteria, so I thought that should be enough.

    Let me read your other blog right now. Thank you for your guidance.

    • I am not familiar with the caveman diet. If you have already removed casein, I’d go back to removing gluten next. You really need to give the gf/cf diet 6 months to a year minimum. That will help heal his gut along with other biomedical interventions.

  4. […] I recently came across a blog of a mom who is a proponent of biomedic therapy for autism and who seems to have had a similar experience to mine with neurofeedback in treating her son’s ADHD. Here’s an entry talking about her son’s experience using neurofeedback in addition to biomedics. Just click to link to it. […]

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