Thursday, January 21, 2016

Seth and neurofeedback therapy

This post has been a long time coming, and is probably going to be way too long and wordy but I'm not blogging for an audience anymore, really, so who cares!

When Seth started 3rd grade (with the same teacher he'd had in 2nd grade), I was 5 months pregnant with Levi.  I began to have spiritual impressions that Seth had ADHD and that I needed to begin to research how to help him.  Seth isn't really hyper and I think that's what we'd been looking for.  Eventually I began to realize that the disorganization, forgetfulness, getting lost, risk taking, blank looks, etc were signs of INATTENTIVE ADHD.  When I talked to his teacher, she was all "yeah, Seth totally has ADHD! I've known it for awhile." She informed me that it wasn't affecting him in school or socially and that she'd keep an eye on it and let me know if she was concerned.  I checked out some books and got some literature but didn't exactly know where to start in terms of helping him.  I am not opposed to medication but it's a very last resort to me and so I wanted to find ways of behavior modification.  

But then I had a baby and was completely sidelined by that little situation.  Seth's fabulous teacher kept letting me know he was okay and I kept trying not to worry about what I wasn't doing.  I had a neat experience (I talked about it here) where Heavenly Father helped me understand that He provided Seth the teacher he had because He knew I couldn't do all of it...she was picking up my slack.  

He started 4th grade and I alerted his notoriously tough but kind teacher that I was worried about this issue and that I'd check in with her to make sure he was managing.  I started feeling more promptings to begin focusing on this issue and began making phone calls and doing research.  I ended up talking to the elementary school counselor and he basically said "you HAVE to look into neurofeedback therapy.  We have kids here at school having lots of success and are seeing the same things district wide."  I also had a friend whose kids were doing it and she had lots of good things to say about it.  I set up an introductory appointment.  Seth had his parent teacher conference the next week...and it was VERY apparent that his work was beginning to suffer.  He wasn't finishing assignments, was forgetting to turn stuff in, was falling behind because he was daydreaming during instruction and was distracted during class time.  I was SO GLAD that I had the appointment scheduled...I didn't feel upset because I knew we were taking care of it.

Our first appointment was just an assessment and conversation about concerns and goals.  If we decided to come back, we'd do a brain map (to find out exactly where the problems in his brain) and begin weekly sessions. We liked our therapist and I was on board, but it was going to be expensive (insurance only covered 50%) and Ryan is very very skeptical about "The Next Big Thing".  He spent lots of time researching studies on neurotherapy.  It's a new therapy and there isn't tons out there, but he understood the science and the studies we found seemed to indicate that neurotherapy has shown the best results in kids with Inattentive exactly like Seth.

So we got started.  This is how the website of the office we visited defines it: a learning strategy that enables persons to alter their brain waves. When information about a person’s own brain wave characteristics is made available to him, he can learn to change them. You can think of it as exercise for the brain. 

We'd go to the office and Seth would have sensors placed on his scalp and ear and the therapist would decide what areas of the brain we'd be working on.  Seth would spend 30-45 minutes watching a video that would stop every time his brain wasn't working the way it was supposed to.  He would concentrate and somehow make the brain waves better and the video would start running again.  I honestly don't completely get it, but you can look around on the website that I linked if you have more questions.  

We also did some behavior therapy and relaxation techniques for the first 15-20 minutes that were hugely helpful to both of us.  It helped me understand expectations I should have, ways I was enabling and what I could do to help, while helping Seth be more responsible for his behavior, "using HIS brain, not mom's" as the therapist said. 

After 10 sessions, we did another brain map to see his progress.  Without going into tons of details, there was huge progress.  The therapist said he didn't know if he'd ever seen someone's brain change that much over such a short amount of time.  I felt like it was truly a little miracle and an answer to prayer.  We continued with 25-30 sessions over the course of 9 months. That is the amount of sessions that studies have shown have the most permanent results. After a final brain map, that showed continue improvement and an almost "normal" brain, we decided to be done.

We were sad to say goodbye to the therapist (Mr. Mark is SO talented) but kinda happy to be done with the $60 weekly visits! Before we left (at the end of the summer), Mr Mark had Seth make a plan for being successful at school.  I was nervous to see how the new school year would go...because that's where we see the biggest struggle (in and out of school).   

And the results?  This is a letter I sent to the therapist about 2 months into school:

Hi Mark,

I was actually just saying my morning prayers and was feeling so grateful about Seth's progress and wanted to just give you an update and express my gratitude. 

Ways we can see improvement:
1. He hasn't been late for school once. Ready and happy on time every day for 6 weeks!
2. He has had us sign his planner and homework almost every day since school started. I think he's missed 2 days. It's been with zero prompting from me. He comes in, opens his binder, works on his stuff and asks me to sign it so he can go play. It's unbelievable to me. 
3. He's working on his PE monthly calendar/worksheet thing. He has literally NEVER turned it in since they started coming home in 3rd grade (I just let it go...couldn't worry about it...and he got really bad grades in PE). Again, completely on his own, he has been getting it out, doing the activities and having us initial the boxes. 
4. Really improved grades. "A"s on most assignments. 
5. During family and personal scripture study, we notice an increased engagement and understanding of the things we are reading and talking about. 

These are things my husband and I have noticed separately and were discussing this morning. I would never have expected this amount of improvement. 

I feel so grateful that this technology is available to us and that we found such a great therapist in you. 

Just wanted to let you know what a difference your work has made in our family! 

--Jessica Romney 

He's not a different Seth...still talkative, a little socially obtuse, creative, open, a little spacey, not afraid of anything.  But he is functioning at a completely different level than he was a year ago.  

I wanted to write about it here, so I didn't forget the change and how blessed we felt.  And if anyone still reads this and is researching solutions to a similar problem, here is my testimonial.  

Oh wait, I haven't yet paid tribute to Seth!  He worked so hard.  Truly came each day with a willingness to learn and grow.  He did the homework between sessions and tried really hard to answer and understand while we were there.  It was sweet and humbling to watch his willingness to do hard things and grow and change.  We love that boy.  


Rochelleht said...

This is incredible. Way to go, mom!!!

Ilene said...

First, those pictures are adorable.

Second, thanks for this! Thomas has been assessed for ADHD and while he doesn't meet all the criteria to get the official diagnosis, our doctor says he probably has it. Reading your testimonial helps as we navigate this world.

These kids are trying so hard than we can ever realize. Yay for Seth!!

Amy F. said...

It is really special reading this and seeing what wonderful parents you are and that Seth has such good advocates for his education and happiness! You'll be glad you documented this to look back on. We've had adventures with our kids with anxiety, depression and dyslexia. These cute little people sometimes have to work through struggles at a young age. You must be so proud of Seth!

martha corinna said...

I am glad it worked for Seth. Norah did it for 2 years and it really didn't work for her at all. And our insurance didn't pay for any of it so I pulled the plug. We held off for a year on medication after a neuropsych blatantly told us Norah's birth trauma affected her frontal lobe and she needed medication. Neither Brad nor I could bite the bullet, but after she started first grade, I felt the Lord tell me while I was standing in my kitchen that I was being prideful and was keeping Norah from doing well by withholding medication. It keeps her doing well in school but it certainly is no cure all. ADHD is a long road for our family and has been heartbreaking. I am happy that you haven't had to go down that road:)

Katie said...

This is a great post, and so helpful. My son in 4th grade has some similar tendencies, I feel impressed to seek out some solutions for him after reading about this. This is great! Thank you so much.