“A trajectory of small miracles”

Cam’s mom tell us the story of her son’s growth and improvement with neurofeedback for his ADHD and other symptoms. The story is long, but well worth the time:

“Cam’s neurofeedback has yielded a cascade of successes. Thanks to his sessions, Cam experiences things more fully, is starting to grow into himself with more ease, and expresses himself better. A trajectory of small miracles you could say.

Cam’s complexities

We had pursued a number of avenues to help Cam work through some pretty big challenges. Some of those avenues have been moderately successful, for example, the supports in his IEP; others, less so, for example, medication. And none of them seemed to really be moving him toward the thing we wanted most—for him to have a happy and grounded childhood. Because you are only a kid once. Because confidence, friendship, optimism, and joy are empowering.

All kids (even neurotypical ones!) are tricky, Cam is trickier than most. Attention is an issue. Language is an issue. Regulation and anxiety are issues. He is bright and catches on to most academic material quickly and firmly despite often seeming to not be paying attention at all. He is strongly social but can be quite awkward at times. Yet, for a child who often seems unaware of social cues, he is exquisitely sensitive to what others think of him. Interventions that should work for him often don’t, and yet he will rise to the occasion when you least expect it.

You could thumb through the DSM and find a few diagnoses for which he would fit the criteria, but not quite. His inclusion facilitator described him as an enigma wrapped in a puzzle. I guess you could say he embodies the human experience in a big way. We are all tricky and complicated. We are all the products of how our brains are wired, our environments, how our DNA unfolded.

For Cam, his vulnerabilities often entered the room before he did. This is happening a little less these days.

When Cam was 4 he had his first neuropsych evaluation. The data were interesting and actually quite useful. The recommendations were not child centered or family centered or Cam centered. We ignored them.

We were also a bad match for our first developmental pediatrician. We didn’t agree that the “lack of affect” was worth the marginal benefits of ADHD medication. We thought it was mindboggling to suggest that a 4 year old child (with whom you have spent 2 hours) might have a future working in the post office or with his hands. Now, those are very good and valuable choices but what brought us up short was the confident prediction. I got defensive and said “Well, I think that he will be like Steve Jobs, you know, and do something amazing in an unconventional way.” But that wasn’t even the point I was groping to make. Finally I got it out, “I don’t care whether he is a brain surgeon or stacks packages for UPS. We want him to have a happy childhood.”

Cam’s response to neurofeedback

Neurofeedback (NF) has moved Cam toward a richer childhood in so many ways. Here are some of them.

• He is off all stimulant medication. He is no longer waif thin and his sleep has improved. He is less irritable and the motor/vocal tics triggered by one of those medications are gone.

• Cam is moving toward increased independence. While he was perfectly capable of dressing himself he used to wait for help. Not anymore. The other day without thinking, I zipped up his coat for him. Without saying a word, he unzipped it and re-zipped it himself. He can go to sleep on his own, in his own room. He doesn’t stay there the whole night yet (though he has on occasion) but this is huge progress. He seems attracted to the idea of being a big kid. He is learning to be by himself with decreasing amounts of anxiety about it. Shortly after he started NF we saw Cam have a great time at a birthday party. He hung out with a friend from kindergarten and just did so well negotiating a crowded room and waiting his turn.

• His summer before NF was awful. His first camp was a terrible fit, and he was unwelcome. He struggled with the transition to the second camp. This summer was an incredible reversal of fortune. Part of it was the camp environment, but Cam also transitioned from school to camp so smoothly. It was startling. The strategies that failed miserably in the classroom were very effective. He was incredibly successful. He felt a part of something. He had fun.

• We started NF in March of Cam’s first grade year. First grade was just awful. Second grade has started with some spectacular successes. We feel that there are a number of reasons for this, but we count NF as a significant factor. Cam has friends. When he is upset he composes himself more quickly than ever before. His specialists are taken aback at how available he is for learning. He is less distracted by his own agenda. Homework is so much easier. He still needs to do it in shorter bits, but he doesn’t complain and doesn’t fool around. He doesn’t flip out when it is a “long day.” He hates the idea of being late because he’ll “miss his friends.”

• Cam expresses himself more often and more clearly. Whether he chooses to comment on a sunrise or wails that I hurt his feelings because I used a “mean voice,” he is finding his “voice” and learning to use it.

• His awareness has skyrocketed. I recently cleared out some stuff in the garage and Cam noticed! “Hey where did all the stuff go?” He remembers to shut the car door. He remembers people’s names. Last December at Christmas dinner at a friend’s house he repeatedly asked “What’s your name?” to their adult daughter (he doesn’t see her often but still…) whether that was due to anxiety or working memory or what, this sort of thing has greatly improved. He remembers what day of the week it is and what is scheduled for a given day.

• He is gaining flexibility! Things that would send him over the edge in the past may get some grousing, but it usually end in “oh okay” or an eerily adolescent “FINE!” He eats hamburgers. He’ll take a taste of things even when he is firmly convinced he won’t like them.

• He is less impulsive overall. His sensory seeking behaviors are way down.

• He makes lists. Some are purposeful (like what we are going to do that day). Some are hilarious and creative (like the steps Angry Birds will take to foil the pigs). All are detailed and logical.

• He makes jokes. Some are genuinely funny. Some are silly.

All of this growth, all of these successes have made a difference. Cam is more at ease, his days at school are less stressful for him (and for us!). He is able get more out of his speech and social pragmatics sessions. He had a great summer. We had a great family vacation this August. School has been a positive experience for him so far this year rather something that dragged him down and chipped away at his confidence. Cam continues to need support and continued work in many areas, but we feel that NF has helped shore up the foundation of the amazing, bright, and quirky, person that he is and whom we love so much.”

The best evidence of the effectiveness of neurofeedback with ADHD comes from the scientific research. But clients’ personal accounts, like this great one from Cam’s Mom, tell the same story. And they are much more fun to read!