Eleven-year-old Oliver is still a “smarty pants,” says his mom Lorena with a smile, but the tornado he used to impersonate is long gone. Diagnosed several years ago with ADHD, he remains very active but isn’t “over the top” anymore when it comes to being distracted – and exasperating.
No longer hearing complaints from school about her son, Lorena says she’s grateful she discovered neurofeedback. Not only did it allow Oliver to take less medication but their home life is a whole lot better, too.
Concerns at age four
When Oliver was four years old, Lorena began to worry. Notes about disturbing behavior from his afterschool provider and later from his kindergarten teacher were practically a daily occurrence. He wouldn’t settle down for a nap or follow the rules. He didn’t complete his work. He constantly jumped in and out of his seat. He interacted poorly with classmates.
Normal consequences at home, like taking away TV time, had no effect whatsoever.
Repeating things “100 times”
Getting Oliver to do normal activities around the house was exhausting and frustrating. Lorena would send him to brush his teeth. He’d become distracted on his way to the bathroom and end up doing something else entirely, like going to the kitchen for a snack.
“I’d have to repeat things 100 times before he’d do what I asked him to do,” Lorena recalled. “I didn’t know what was wrong. His behavior was too much for me. I couldn’t handle it. I was overwhelmed, and I cried a lot.”
Medicated at age six
Lorena took him to the pediatrician when he was six. The doctor diagnosed ADHD and started him on a stimulant medication.
That worked. Complaints from teachers became far less frequent. His academics and ability to focus improved. But there were some big downsides.
When medicated, Oliver was emotionless, almost robotic. “Late in the afternoon the medication would wear off and he’d sort of be himself again, but it still wasn’t the real him,” Lorena said.
“He didn’t laugh or play as much. He went from being “Mr. Speedy” to “I don’t want to do anything.”
Besides dulling Oliver’s spirit, the meds grasped him in a greedy fist of anxiety that wouldn’t let go. He had vivid, horrific nightmares. He sleepwalked. He bit his fingers so intensely that they bled. He became terrified at the sight of insects and thoughts of monsters lurking in the house.
The doctor regularly increased the dosage as the medication became less effective over time. With each increase, the side effects escalated until they were intolerable. They’d switch to a new medication and start the process over with a different medication.
Oliver was doing better in school and at home, but Lorena felt she was raising a boy who wasn’t the real Oliver. And she was uncomfortable at how high the medication dosages always became.
Skeptical about neurofeedback
One day a friend in New Jersey told her about neurofeedback. Lorena was intrigued but skeptical.
“I couldn’t imagine how watching a movie that faded in and out or playing a video game was going to make any difference,” Lorena said. “It sounded too good to be true. I figured something like that wasn’t strong enough to do any good, but I didn’t understand at the time how neurofeedback works. Some people even warned me that it was a scam.”
Out of options, she decided to gulp down her doubts, dial down the naysayers and give neurofeedback a try. She did some internet research, found the Center for Brain Training and was impressed by the reviews.
“I wanted to go to bat for my son any way that I could and decided to do whatever it took to help him out,” Lorena said.
Eight months and 30 neurofeedback sessions
She started him on a neurofeedback training program that ultimately spanned eight months and 30 sessions. She soon began noticing small changes. When Lorena told him to brush his teeth, he did it with few or no distractions getting in the way. The notes coming home from school diminished, and she heard fewer complaints from teachers and aftercare workers.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing. At one point, Oliver’s training protocol was changed and he became very impatient. He also complained a couple of times of mild headaches after training. Tweaking the protocol on the next visit eliminated those issues.
About six months into his training, and with her doctor’s involvement, Lorena reduced Oliver’s Concerta from 54 mg to 20 mg, where it has remained.
Back to being “the real Oliver”
Today, Oliver is thriving in school. He’s getting no bad behavior reports, and his grades are better. He now follows instructions and is more cooperative with classmates. He stopped sleepwalking, is less anxious and is more compliant at home.
“I feel like I’m finally dealing with the real Oliver,” Lorena said. “He has emotions again, and I get to enjoy him being him.
“It’s not like he’s 100 percent different,” she continued. “You can still see his ADHD, but it’s far better than it used to be, and he’s much easier to manage at home.”
Lorena isn’t sure how much of his improvement is due directly to the neurofeedback and how much is due to his being able to take less medication, but whatever it is, she’s happy with the changes.
“I am very thankful and happy that the Center for Brain Training was able to help him,” she said. “It was a lifesaver.”
*Name changed to protect confidentiality