by Mike Cohen
I heard a story recently from Shauna Krzanowski. Her story was both disturbing and, sadly, not a surprise, because it was representative of the uphill battle neurofeedback has been engaged in for nearly five decades.
Shauna is an occupational therapist in Lake Worth, Florida, a former student of mine and a provider of neurofeedback. Shauna works with young children with developmental delays.
A mother with a boy just under three years old (not yet diagnosed but suspected of being on the autism spectrum) was referred to Shauna for occupational therapy services by an early intervention speech therapy provider. This provider had identified possible sensory processing issues.
“Michael”* was also receiving private speech therapy services three times per week yet, after a year, his speech consisted of only five barely intelligible words.
Observing this speech deficit and some behavior problems, Shauna told “Abby,”* Michael’s mom, about neurofeedback and provided information to her regarding research on the use of neurofeedback with individuals on the autism spectrum.
Intrigued, Abby mentioned neurofeedback to her child’s private speech therapist to see if she had any knowledge about the subject. The therapist reacted strongly and negatively. She told Abby that neurofeedback was a “crock” (or words to that effect) and dismissed the idea that this type of intervention could be of any help.
Intimidated by that remark, Abby decided not to try it. Five months later, however, she changed her mind. She had become frustrated with Michael’s continuing minimal improvement in language skills, his meltdowns at home and at school and daily negative behavior reports from his pre-school teachers.
Surprising results from the neurofeedback
To her surprise, after just two neurofeedback sessions, Michael’s meltdowns stopped. Soon it was easier to get him dressed for school, and his social skills, play skills and behavior both in and out of school improved.
He also began gaining language quickly. After six months of neurofeedback, he was speaking in sentences. This kind of progress in such a short time is simply remarkable.
Still “mum” about what she’s doing
Despite her son’s impressive gains and singing the praises of neurofeedback to other parents, the words of the uninformed private speech therapist hung over Abby. Many months later, she remains mum about it around Michael’s therapists, teachers and daycare providers. When Shauna asked her why, Abby said that she was afraid they would judge her for “putting wires on his head and all that.”
Unfortunately, it’s still common for health care providers and other professionals dealing with people with brain-based issues to dismiss neurofeedback out of hand instead of saying they don’t know much about it and are going to look into it. Rather, they state that “it doesn’t work” or, in some cases, say something even worse. Abby isn’t the only parent I’ve heard of who has kept this crucial information from professionals she interacted with out of fear of censure.
Thanks to the internet, there are numerous good sources today for learning about the many benefits of neurofeedback. I suggest that the next time you hear a negative blanket statement about neurofeedback that you do your research and decide for yourself.
We have many resources on our website, including our research page.
Read stories here about how neurofeedback helped some of our young clients on the autism spectrum as well as adult and child clients with other challenges
*Name changed to protect confidentiality