How Neurofeedback Therapy Helped My Son Learn Self-Control

Health & Wellness on 02.05.13
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Photo Credit: Wyomimg Jackrabbit/ Creative Commons 

When my son turned four years old it was as if a switch had been flipped.  

His quiet, dreamy, observant, and laid-back demeanor was replaced with one that howled, kicked, scratched, bit, and was opposed to everything. From getting dressed in the morning to teeth brushing at night, everything had become a battle. 

By the time my son had his seventh birthday we had seen little improvement, and it was clear that this was not a developmental issue that would go away. He was sent home from preschool on numerous occasions for hurting other children and finally suspended. The impact was wearing me down, and I was constantly compromising my parenting lest my request for him to pick up his bath towel turn into a hostage negotiation. The most disturbing issue was his inability to remember his tantrums once they were over, and he often acted as though nothing had even happened, except I knew it was not an act. 

I first learned about neurofeedback treatment from a close friend who had treated her adopted son with great success. It was not until I interviewed with Dr.Bob Raphael, that I learned the term "emotional dysregulation" and how it applied to my son. I was intrigued by the articles he gave me to read on the subject, and testimonials from those who had experienced dramatic results.  Although I was skeptical that it could help my son, I was entirely hopeful. 

Neurofeedback is direct training of brain function, by which the brain learns to function more efficiently. We observe the brain in action from moment to moment. We show that information back to the person. And we reward the brain for changing its own activity to more appropriate patterns. This is a gradual learning process. It applies to any aspect of brain function that we can measure. Neurofeedback is also called EEG Biofeedback, because it is based on electrical brain activity, the electroencephalogram, or EEG. Neurofeedback is training in self-regulation. It is simply biofeedback applied to the brain directly. Self-regulation is a necessary part of good brain function. Self-regulation training allows the system (the central nervous system) to function better. - EEG Feedback

What most appealed to me about the treatment was that for those it helped, its impact was usually permanent. The goal of neurofeedback is to train the brain to correct its own responses and optimize itself in situations where it previously could not get itself out of “park,” said Dr. Bob, explaining in layman's terms. The feedback therapy would help my son’s brain choose a new response and recognize the association between cause and effect. This would, in theory, enable my son to regulate himself when faced with situations that would formerly make him escalate out of control. 

Over the course of our time with Dr. Bob I saw my son’s oppositional pilot control of “No, I won’t, and you can’t make me...” begin to mellow into something that sounded much more like a typical seven year old's reluctance to comply.

“Oh, MAN! “ he’d say when I asked him to clear his dinner plate, while doing it anyway with a sheepish grin. 

It's been four months of neurofeedback and we are in the homestretch. I have seen a dramatic improvement in my son's behavior, and his general mood seems happy and easy going vs. the brooding boy who used to be so easily triggered. I have been thrilled with the results, and have tremendous gratitude and hope that those who suffer with other disorders can gain the help they need. Having just been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder myself, i learned recently, that neurofeedback can correct a host of other disorders.

Neurofeedback addresses problems of brain disregulation. These happen to be numerous. They include the anxiety-depression spectrum, attention deficits, behavior disorders, various sleep disorders, headaches and migraines, PMS and emotional disturbances. It is also useful for organic brain conditions such as seizures, the autism spectrum, and cerebral palsy. - EEG Feedback 

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