Suzanne* was in the kitchen making a salad when nine-year-old Riley* came up to her from behind and gave her a big hug. Earlier that day the two had been at the mall, and Riley had reached out to hold her mother’s hand while they shopped.
“Simple things like that are so sweet and so normal for most people,” said Suzanne. “But for me they’re startling, because only recently has there been anything normal about our interactions since Riley was a baby.”
At two years old Riley would try to take her pants off while still wearing her shoes. She was unwilling to remove the shoes herself and wouldn’t let Suzanne do it. Instead, Riley would scream incessantly, sometimes for as long as a half hour, then fall asleep on the floor, exhausted. No amount of consoling or de-escalation techniques worked.
Getting Riley ready for school was an ordeal. Simply asking her to put on her shirt would send her into a kicking, scratching, screaming rage, as would other simple requests like sharing a toy with her sister.
Suzanne tried to help Riley’s day start better by gently awakening her in the morning with a soft backrub, but that backfired.
“Doing that made her angry. She didn’t want me to touch her,” Suzanne noted.
“People kept saying that she would grow out of it,” continued Suzanne, “but I knew something was wrong – and she didn’t grow out of it.”
Suzanne described Riley as having a Jekyll and Hyde personality. She would be fine one moment, then get out of control for no obvious reason. “It was like someone flipped a switch,” she explained.
As Riley got bigger, so did the problems.
On the way to school one day, Riley became frustrated because the ponytail she was putting her hair in had a bump she couldn’t get rid of. She went into a screaming rage and started throwing things at Suzanne as she drove.
Some days when she would arrive at school, Riley would fly out of the car and take off running.
“It was mortifying when she would bolt and a teacher would have to try to catch her,” Suzanne remembered. “I was terrified about her turning into a teenager and being completely out of control.”
You couldn’t see Suzanne’s emotional wounds as she struggled to parent a little girl who didn’t want to be parented. However, physical wounds were there for the world to see – bruises and scratches that almost became part of Suzanne’s daily wardrobe.
“People understand domestic abuse but they don’t understand the difficulty of being assaulted by your child unless it happens to them,” said Suzanne. “Besides feeling like a complete failure as a parent, I also felt very judged.”
Riley’s situation wasn’t helping Suzanne’s marriage, either. The house was saturated with tension, and her husband blamed her parenting skills.
Over the years Suzanne walked down many paths as she tirelessly sought answers. She knew it wasn’t diet, because Riley had only eaten organic food her entire life. Immunizations were not suspect, as Suzanne doesn’t believe in them and had never had Riley immunized.
Eventually Suzanne turned to help from Ginny Luther of Peaceful Parenting. After Ginny did all she could, she recommended trying neurofeedback at Center for Brain.
“I had never heard of neurofeedback, but I was desperate to give it a shot,” recalled Suzanne. “I was worn out from all the stress and worry.”
The first thing Mike Cohen at Center for Brain did was conduct a brain map on Riley. He immediately identified the problem.
“The circuits were reversed. What was supposed to be processed in the front of the brain was being processed in the back, and vice versa,” Mike said.
After just one neurofeedback session Suzanne observed an immediate improvement in Riley’s behavior. The effect wore off after three days, but the improvement returned after the second session. With each subsequent session the improvements lasted longer.
After four sessions her father exclaimed to Mike, “Is it possible it is working this fast? She’s 80% better. This is almost like a miracle.”
For example, one day Riley told her mother “I love you” not once but twice. Riley almost never said “I love you” to Suzanne.
Currently Riley has completed nine neurofeedback sessions over the course of two and a half months. Not only is she doing better but so is the family.
We’ve seen a drastic difference,” Suzanne explained. “There’s less tension in the house and less abuse by Riley. We are seeing more emotion from her – signs of empathy and remorse and compassion that we never saw before.”
After being sent to her room recently to calm down, Riley came out after 15 minutes.
“She said, ‘I’m so sorry. I didn’t make the right choice, please forgive me,’” noted Suzanne. “Then she wanted me to hold her. She had never done that before. I was in tears. I felt like saying: Who are you? Please don’t leave!”
Not only is Riley more affectionate, but the tension in Suzanne’s marriage has dissipated.
“After we did the brain map and were able to see the problems in Riley’s brain wiring, my husband apologized for his criticism,” she continued. “Now he’s very supportive.”
Suzanne and her husband know that helping Riley’s brain normalize and stay that way will require more sessions, but it’s something they are willing to do for their daughter – “Whatever it takes,” she said.
In the meantime, she’s enjoying a new relationship with Riley.
“I finally feel like a parent,” she said. “Riley’s confiding in me now like a daughter her age would do, and we have a much more normal mother-daughter relationship.
“We’re very grateful to Center for Brain for getting to the root of Riley’s problem. I’ve told other mothers with children who have problems about Center for Brain and hope they can benefit from our experience.”
*Names changed to protect privacy