Your Child's Brain and ADD/ADHD
By Gail Sanders Durgin, Ph.D., BCN-Fellow, QEEGT
Does your child frustrate you with his/her poor organizational behavior, impulsiveness, inattention and hyperactivity? Can your son have great attention when on the baseball field or when playing basketball but be totally spaced out when trying to get his homework finished? Does your daughter forget to bring her homework assignments home or forget to write assignments in her planner?
Has your child been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD? This condition can affect many parts of his/her life and make school work and relationships difficult. However, not all ADD/ADHD is alike. Two children in the same family can have the same diagnosis but have very different behaviors. Why is this happening? It is happening because even though both children meet the criteria for ADD/ADHD, the activity in their brains can be very different. Researchers in the field of EEG have found a number of ADD phenotypes or varieties of ADD/ADHD that have different brain patterns that result in different behaviors. By learning the type or sometimes types of ADD/ADHD your child has using a qEEG or quantitative electroencephalogram, you can greatly improve the type of treatment or training you provide for your child and see your child be more successful in school, have improved relationships and participate in a happier family life.
Jimmy was in the third grade and had been taking medication for ADD for a year. His behavior in the classroom had improved and his grades were better. However, Jimmy had a hard time in the afternoon, after his medication started to wear off. He was moody and he had a really hard time getting his homework finished. If his mother gave him extra medication to help him finish his homework, he stayed awake for a long time after he went to bed. His parents would come in many times and tell him to go to sleep but he was not sleepy. His mother would try to schedule activities later so he could work on his homework before his medications wore off, but with his brother's schedule it was often not possible. Jimmy frequently got into trouble in the afternoon because he got so hyperactive and found it hard to control his temper at times when he was not allowed to play his favorite video game until he had finished his homework. Jimmy's mother and father were concerned about Jimmy's behavior in the afternoon. They let Jimmy sign up for a soccer team after school but he had a focusing on the drills and cooperating with his teammates by the end of practice and he had to face getting his homework done after he got home. Jimmy's parents decided to try to find a way to help Jimmy so he and the rest of the family could enjoy their afternoons and evenings together.
Jimmy came to see Dr. Durgin. He put on the EEG cap and had his EEG recorded while his eyes were open, closed and doing reading and math. Jimmy had brain patterns that are frequently seen in ADD/ADHD. His brain was making too much 4-7 Hz activity in the center of his brain. This made is hard for Jimmy to put the “brakes on” or control his impulses. He also had a hard time sitting still and focusing on what he was supposed to be doing. Jimmy often would do things that could be dangerous without thinking about the results. His mother felt she had to constantly keep an eye on him unless he was focused on playing his favorite video game. The medication helped Jimmy control these behaviors while he was at school but Jimmy lost his control when his medication wore off.
Jimmy did not like coming for neurofeedback at first but he saw other kids there and he soon enjoyed coming. Jimmy did a simple neurofeedback at first were he made a display move on a screen and got a beep when his brain scored a point. Jimmy's favorite kind of feedback was watching a DVD movie. The catch was that the movie would get dark and the sound would get low when he was not paying attention or when he was goofing off. Jimmy soon learned to control these behaviors so he could see what was happening in the movie. Dr. Durgin adjusted the difficulty so that his brain had to work harder and improve the energy and connections in his brain. Over time, the changes in his brain started to show in his behavior. Jimmy was less hyperactive in the afternoon when he his medication wore off. He was able to focus better on the activity with his soccer team. He had less difficulty finishing his homework. Jimmy's parents said the evenings were more enjoyable. The teacher reported that Jimmy was able to focus better in class and his grades gradually began to improve. Jimmy and his parents were happy with the results of the neurofeedback training.
Peter walked into the office with a look of “not another evaluation.” His mother had taken him to a number of places to be evaluated for ADD and/or learning disabilities. He had some ADD symptoms but not to the extent that his pediatrician thought he should be diagnosed with ADD and medicated. He had been evaluated at a learning center and a tutoring service. He performed well on those evaluations but he still had a hard time finishing his homework and doing well on his tests at school. He wanted to do well but when he was working on homework, especially math, his brain just went blank and it took him forever to get things done. His parents said he was not interested in working up to his potential and compared his homework to his sports performance where he was excellent. Peter was often very moody and sometimes had problems with his teammates on his sports teams. Peter could not understand and his parents could not understand.
After Dr. Durgin talked with Peter and his parents, she had some ideas about what could be happening, but she needed a qEEG or a brain map to be sure of the problem. At the next appointment, Peter put on an EEG cap with 19 leads and Dr. Durgin recorded his brain while he had his eyes open and closed as well as during reading and math. Peter was happy when he could take the snug cap off but he was curious about what Dr. Durgin could learn about him from all those wiggly lines.
Peter's parents met with Dr. Durgin to get the results of the testing. They told Peter that they had learned that while his brain was fine while he was doing most activities, it changed its pattern when he was doing reading and especially during math. Peter had a type of ADD that made the front of his brain slow down while he was doing math. Peter was told that this was one of several types of ADD that could be seen from the qEEG or brain mapping. While most neurofeedback is done with eyes open, Peter was told that after the first few sessions, he would need to train while he was reading or doing math and he would know when his brain was doing the right thing by the sounds he would hear.
After several months of training, Peter started to have better results on his math tests and it was not as difficult to read his English assignments. He gradually started getting along with his teammates and enjoyed the team practice as much as he enjoyed the excitement of the competition. Peter was happy with his success at school and on the sports field.
Peter had a type of ADD that is seen during the math and reading task. Instead of the brain engaging in the task and his focus improving, his brain slowed down in the prefrontal cortex. Dr. Durgin showed Peter the difference in his EEG while he had his eyes open and while he was doing math. After his training was finished, his brain was able to engage while he was reading and doing math and Peter could see how his brain was performing differently.
Sally was an active 5 year old girl who loved to play with her kitten and her dolls. She was unhappy because she had to spend part of the week with her mother and part with her father, but she was loved and cared for by her entire family. Sally started Kindergarten and enjoyed going to school. However, she soon was upset because she was not able to sit still as long as the other children and often did not have stars in her daily planner at the end of the school day. The teacher moved her away from her friends so that she could not talk to them as often. Sally's parents were asked by the teacher to put her on medication because she had ADD and was not doing well in the classroom. Her parents were not sure about the teacher's request to put her on medication. They brought her to see Dr. Durgin to see if there was an alternative. After Dr. Durgin analyzed her brain map, she recommended neurofeedback training. The type of pattern on her map was not the type that responded well to stimulant medications. Sally had a high beta pattern and while she had behaviors that were positive on the ADD/ADHD behavior check list, she needed training to help her learn to calm herself and to reduce her anxiety. As Sally came for her neurofeedback training, she gradually started getting stars in her daily planner and got to sit closer to her friends again. Her parents were happy with her progress and felt she would continue to improve and learn in school.
A number of different patterns in the brain can result in behaviors that lead to a diagnosis of ADD/ ADHD. Evaluation with qEEG and Neurofeedback can help with understanding your child's behavior and deciding on the best treatment plan for you child. Training can be customized to meet your child's need with different types of neurofeedback equipment and training that use one lead on the scalp to training that uses 19 leads on the head and is able to target structures deeper in the brain called Brodmann areas. Treatment can also be coordinated with the child's physician to insure the optimal care.
Neurofeedback Associates, Inc. has been providing neurofeedback and biofeedback services to the Triad and surrounding areas since 2000. Dr. Gail Durgin has trained with many of the leaders in the field of neurofeedback and has been trained in the most advanced neurofeedback technology. She offers a wide range of neurofeedback and biofeedback services and can customize services to meet your child's individual needs.
She can be reached at 336-540-172. Neurofeedback Associates, Inc. is located at 2309 West Cone Blvd, Suite 210, Greensboro, NC 27408
Published in Natural Triad, March, 2012