Alternative Ways to Help Your Child

By Dr. Gail Sanders Durgin Ph.D.

Most parents are faced with decisions about the best way to help their child when problems begin to occur. The teacher at school may request the child be evaluated fro ADD or ADHD due to classroom behavior or the teacher may simply say the child is not working up to his or her potential without indicating that there are any behavior problems. Parents may see moodiness and wonder if it is a normal developmental stage or an indication of a real problem. Most parents know that drugs are available to help address some of these issues but wonder if there is another alternative. In recent months, additional concerns about the side effects of stimulants as Ritalin or Concerta and Adderal, as well as antidepressants have been reported.

Many of these issues can be addressed using a variety of biofeedback and academic skills training that have a proven tract record. One program called Test Edge teaches students tools and strategies to deal with stress, test taking and absorbing subject knowledge and skills. This program can be linked with a Heart Rate variability program, a stress reduction program, which has been successful in helping students and adults decrease their response to stress, improve test scores, achieve improved athletic performance, and decrease anger and aggression.

Biofeedback methods can include temperature training to improve stress response, headaches, blood pressure and other related symptoms. This type of training has been used at the Menninger Foundation since the mid-1960's. Temperature training is often paired with training in breath work. Breath work can be used in any situation to immediately assist in controlling negative stress responses. It is always available no matter what situation the person is experiencing.

An additional form of feedback is Neurofeedback or EEG biofeedback. This form of feedback was an accidental discovery made by Dr. Barry Sterman while doing research for NASA. Neurofeedback uses sensors on the scalp to give the brain information about its own performance. Like learning to ride a bicycle, once a person learns to manage his or her own brainwaves, the brain remembers. The new connections and learning within the brain remain and they sustain brain functioning. Neurofeedback is training. It does not change your personality. It teaches your brain new ways to process information.

In a recent issue of The Brown University Child and Adolescents Psychopharmacology Update, the effectiveness of Neurofeedback or electroencephalograph biofeedback (EBF) on conditions ranging from ADHD to seizure disorder to depression was discussed. "According to reviewers, these studies demonstrated that 70-80 % of participants benefited from EBF and the effect size may be somewhat equal to that of stimulants for the treatment of ADHD symptoms." At a recent Neurofeedback conference sponsored by SABA, Dr. Hallowell, author of Driven to Distraction, stated that he was very excited about the use of Neurofeedback for the treatment of ADHD and that he wished that he had learned about it sooner. At the same conference, Dr. Sears discussed the importance of diet and nutritional supplements for producing healthy children including healthy brains.

If you are concerned about treatment options for your child, there are alternatives to medication. Diet, nutrition, behavioral interventions as well as various types of biofeedback can assist your child in reaching his or her full potential.


Published in Natural Triad August 2005.


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