One of the greatest problems confronting parents and teachers in dealing with your child’s learning brain is the array of choices one faces when dealing with underachievement and/or a learning disorder. Intensive tutoring, medication and/or various other therapies may be tried with little success. Ultimately, these parents come to me, a neurofeedback facilitator, for additional support.
I’ve found neurofeedback to be a successful hands-on strategy to help children achieve a successful learning brain. And in over 90% of my caseload, my clients (ADHD children, kids with attachment disorders, even athletes) have experienced almost immediate success with this program.
Neurofeedback is not biofeedback, which is a treatment technique that incorporates instruments to measure physiological responses in a person’s body (hand temperature, sweat gland activity, breathing rates, heart rates, blood pressure and brainwave patterns, Amen, D., 2001). Instead, neurofeedback trains the brain by first placing several electrodes on the scalp and one or two electrodes on the earlobes. Then EEG equipment provides real-time, instantaneous audio and visual feedback to the subject about his or her brainwave activity. No electrical current is put into the brain. The brain’s electrical activity is simply relayed to a computer.
Ordinarily we cannot reliably influence our brainwave patterns because we lack awareness of them. However, when we can see a representation of our brainwave activity on a computer screen a few thousandths of a second after they occur, it gives us the ability to influence and change them through a process of operant conditioning (a technique used to shape behavior through positive and negative reinforcement – B. F. Skinner).
In short, neurofeedback practitioners are now able to recondition and retrain the brain. At first, the changes are short-lived, but the changes gradually become more enduring and with continuing feedback, coaching, and practice, improved brain functioning can usually be trained in most people and the changes can become permanent. Electrode placements can be determined based on quantitative EEG brain mapping assessments (Joseph, 1996; Tranel, 2002) in relationship to the International 10-20 System of Electrode Placement.
Children with an attachment disorder represent one of the significant groups that suffers from the detrimental effects on the learning brain. Such children often experience learning issues that can play into severe mistrust which affects their ability to learn.
When dealing with children with attachment disorders, I initially look to the brain’s limbic system by calming the right posterior and right frontal sides of the brain to calm the mistrust. The brain’s limbic system is our emotional seat that connects and/or ingrains negative and or positive experiences and creates what brain scientists call hot areas of the brain.
Another important area of the limbic system is the thalamus which determines whether incoming experiences are threatening or non-threatening. If threatening, the thalamus directs the response to the amygdala and signals the brain into a fight or flight response. If non-threatening, the emotions are sent to the limbic system’s hippocampus, seat of positive emotional relationships which connects to the executive area of the brain and higher order thinking.
Fortunately we are rarely placed in a survival situation. However, when past negative experiences are generalized into present day experiences, learning problems can develop, particularly with children.
A child who experiences early trauma may carry this memory or hot spot issues for life. Therapists like to refer this memory as a paper-cut to the heart.
A side note to attachment disorders is PTSD or post traumatic stress disorder. A soldier returning to civilian life after a tour of combat duty cannot immediately separate what is real and not real. Combat experiences can trigger the hot spot phenomenon much as stress can trigger children with attachment disorder experiences. Smells, sounds, images of combat can trigger the hot spot or PTSD.
Another disorder that can affect the child’s learning brain occurs when a child’s body and brain are out of sync. Sometimes the brain is over stimulated (ADHD) or under stimulated (ADD). Prescribed medication stimulates the brain so it can catch up and/or quiet the brain. The problems associated with stimulant medication are well known: sleep disturbances, stunted growth and potential addiction. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics neurofeedback has been recognized as the No. 1 rated alternative to medication for ADHD.
Neuroefeedback would address ADHD in such areas as the left temporal side and the right temporal; right parietals and/or left parietal areas of the brain. Success will mean that the body and brain come into harmony as one.
Athletes of all ages need a relaxed body to foster intense focus or what we like to call being in the zone to achieve maximum performance in a competitive situation. It is especially apparent for children who are placed in highly competitive situations that can affect performance.
Again, it is the right side that could block successful athletic performance. A good example of being in the zone is explained this way:
It’s a very strange feeling. It’s as if time slows down, allowing you to see everything clearly. You just know that everything about your technique is spot on. It just feels so effortless; it’s almost as if you’re floating across the track. Every muscle, every fiber, every sinew is working in complete harmony and the end product is that you run fantastically well. (Mind Games, Grout and Perrin, 2006)
The following is a list of the many athletes who have used or are using neurofeedback to enhance performance. These athletes and teams have used neurofeedback to improve athletic performance: Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings, 3-time Olympic Gold Medalists; Beach Volleyball, Eric Shanteau; 2012 U.S. Swim Team Olympic Gold Medalist, Jessica Hardy; Phil Mickelson,World Golf Hall of Famer; Denver Broncos, AFL Division Leaders, Chicago Bears, NFL Division Leaders, New York Giants, Super Bowl Champions.
Parents and teachers should never compromise when it comes to the child’s learning brain.
For ADHD children it can be the long-term effects of medication. For children with attachment disorders, it could be the endless road one must travel to heal the paper cut to their heart. For athletes, it is an alternative to PEDS (performance enhancing drugs) to stimulate greater performance. The advantage of neurfeedback is that it has shown to be a safe and natural approach to helping your child’s learning brain reach it greatest potential. You decide.
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