By the time Leon* was four his mother Teresa* knew something was amiss. He barely spoke. He didn’t seem to understand what he was being told. He daydreamed constantly, kept to himself, paid no attention to his surroundings, and took no interest in others.
Year after year he remained disengaged from the world. Diagnosed with learning disabilities and a speech problem, he couldn’t keep up in class, spoke rarely, and didn’t respond to information or requests. He had no friends and didn’t participate in class.
Life began to change around age ten when Teresa heard about neurofeedback from another parent and decided to have Leon try it. Over the next three years of weekly training, he gradually blossomed into a different child. He began engaging with the family, participating in class and making friends. He remained quiet but was more dialed into the world.
“Even though he’s 13, seeing Leon thrive is as exciting as watching your baby take his first steps or hearing him say his first word,” Teresa exclaimed. “It feels wonderful.”
There but not really “there”
At age three, the first of Leon’s two younger sisters was born. He took absolutely no interest in her, as if she were an inanimate object. He didn’t kiss or touch her or try to play with her. He appeared to only be aware of her when he commented to Teresa that he noticed she’d begun walking.
Barely spoke at four, didn’t seem to understand much
Barely speaking or understanding by age four, Leon’s pediatrician suggested an assessment by ChildFind. (ChildFind identifies children eligible for state-funded services who have, or are at risk of, developing disabilities. It coordinates diagnostic screening, placement, training and support). The assessment diagnosed learning disabilities and a speech problem.
Leon received a spate of State services, beginning in pre-K. Teresa observed only minimal benefit from those efforts throughout elementary school, perhaps because Leon’s situation was far more complicated than learning disabilities and speech issues.
Struggled, even with help
“Even with help, he continued struggling with talking, listening, understanding what he was told and doing his schoolwork,” Teresa explained. “He remained disengaged from everything and everyone.”
For example, if one of his parents left the house, he wasn’t curious about where they were going. If one of them called, he avoided getting on the phone. He could be in the same room with two people and wouldn’t react if his name was mentioned.
For stimulation, Teresa read Leon an easy book every night, then asked him what the book was about. “He couldn’t tell me,” Teresa said. “He had trouble making sense of his homework, and some nights we were still working on it at 11 p.m.”
If he was in a grocery store with his mother, he couldn’t retrieve an item she wanted off the shelf, even by the time he was nine.
It was obvious the help he’d been receiving in the school wasn’t enough.
“He was there but not really ‘there,’” Teresa explained.
Nearly “immediate” changes after starting neurofeedback
When Teresa learned about neurofeedback at the Center for Brain Training from another parent, she decided to bring him in to try it.
The center’s director Mike Cohen remembers his first meeting with Leon, then 10, when he asked him simple questions like “What do you enjoy doing at school?” Leon couldn’t answer. It was unclear whether Leon even understood the question.
Once neurofeedback training started, changes occurred rapidly.
“Almost immediately he started catching on to what was being said to him,” Teresa remembered.
By the fourth session Leon, now 13, began interacting with the technician who’d been working with him. She described the change as being “like a miracle, like a switch had been turned on in his brain.”
A brain map helped
A year after starting neurofeedback, Mike suggested a brain map to more precisely target the training. After that, his mother observed Leon’s progress ramping up substantially.
He began speaking up in class, earning better grades and making friends.
Drastic improvements by the time his second sister was born
When Leon’s second sister was born a year ago, he responded to her significantly differently than he did to his first sister. He holds her when he comes home from school. He helps feed her and he plays with her daily.
The quality of his interactions with his older sister have improved drastically, too. Instead of ignoring her, you’ll find him playing dolls and video games with her and watching movies together.
Long homework sessions became a thing of the past
Teresa no longer has to help Leon with his homework. In fact, he does much of his homework at school before coming home.
“Recently he had to do a civics project about the Al Gore-George W. Bush election in 2000,” Teresa recalled. “I knew that was going to be hard and figured I’d have to help him, but he did it on his own and finished it two weeks early.”
Even though Leon is still eligible for State services, he’s not utilizing them because, Teresa says, he doesn’t appear to need them.
Finally, “the son I always wanted”
“Neurofeedback is a blessing and a miracle,” Teresa said. “With the help of the Center for Brain Training I got the son I always wanted.”
Mike credits Teresa for her unwavering commitment to helping her son. “His improvement was a testament to Teresa, who went to great lengths to get Leon to the center for regular sessions,” he noted.
*Names changed to protect confidentiality.