Monday, July 11, 2005

Walking the Rocky Road

I have mentioned in the past that my son is not a Vanilla person. He's Rocky Road all the way. It's both a blessing and a curse for him (and us). And, as much as I think that long term, he'll do amazing things with his life, the here and now can be very difficult. While every adult that meets him comments on what an interesting and intelligent child he is, he's nearly failing out of school.

It's been a long struggle for us to help him develop strategies for coping with his specially-wired brain. He has a million thoughts running through it all the time. This becomes readily apparent when he changes the question he's asking me two or three times in mid-sentence. It's very frustrating for him and me. I worry that the world won't give him the patience he deserves.

I know there are stimulants that can help his thoughts "get in line" (as a former ADD colleague and child Ritalin user used to say), but for us, that isn't something we're ready to resort to just yet. I've heard some success stories and an equal number of disasters. We've tried super doses of Omega 3, extra homework help, individual education plans, and a host of other techniques. All with limited success.

The latest, and most expensive, experiment is eeg neurofeedback.

We're meeting with a psychologist on Thursday to discuss beginning him on 40 45-minute sessions. Basically, they attach eeg stickers to his head to monitor his alpha, beta, and theta brain waves, and hook the eeg to a computer that plays games. As he plays the games, he is rewarded for producing more beta waves. It is supposed to teach the brain to increase its use of beta waves, which is normally the difficulty for kids with attentional issues. It gets progressively more difficult, but is supposed to have an 85% success rate in treating the symptoms of ADD. And, unlike drugs, it's lasting - especially when done with children.

I have my doubts on whether or not it will work. But, I think we really do have to try everything we can. I'd feel horrible if I knew there was something that we could have done to make his life a little easier and we didn't. That being said, I'm not complete naive. I plan on negotiating some benchmarks and performance metrics into our contract, so that if it isn't working, we don't get stuck paying 100% of the bill (luckily, our benefits cover about 1/4 of it).

I also worry that this therapy might take away his Rocky Road-ness, which would be a tragedy. But, on the same token, his current state is causing his self-esteem no end of harm. Ahhh. The joys of parenthood. Tough decisions and heart break at every corner!

Has anyone heard anything about eeg neurofeedback (or eeg biofeedback)? Any anecdotes or information on personal experiences would be great.


At 2:31 PM, Blogger sxKitten said...

Good for you for taking a look at all your options, and not giving up. My brother was hyperactive and dyslexic (in the 70's, before the ADD diagnosis existed), and labeled a 'bad' kid at a very early age. And he wasn't - he's a very good person, thoughtful, socially conscious, honest ... but he marches to a very different drummer than the rest of us. At the time, there was zero support for parents and few options besides Ritalin (which my mother tried briefly and rejected because it changed who he was), and I know my mother carries a great deal of guilt for not doing more, even though the resources just weren't there.

I don't think you have to worry about taking away from your son's Rocky Roadness - he's old enough that his personality pretty well established. Think of it as giving him more tools for dealing with the world. What you're doing now is more like teaching him responsibility and self-restraint than changing who he is.

At 9:03 PM, Blogger Jennie said...

Whatever you do, don't ask Tom Cruise about the Ritalin thing.

My sister was both ADD and OCD, which made for an interesting combination. My parents tried Ritalin for a while, but it caused her moods to switch so rapidly. It was kind of scary how different she was when she took it. I'm not arguing against it by any means, I know it's helped lots of kids, and god knows my sister had bigger problems than ADD.

Ok, I don't know if that helped. Good luck with everything!

At 9:51 PM, Blogger the Arrogant Fool said...

There's a game called The Journey to Wild Divine. It uses biofeedback, but it's more along the lines of learning to meditate. It comes with three sensors you attach to your fingers which read your heart rate and perspiration, and the game responds. I bought it back in January, and had a good time with it, but I returned it because it was expensive for me, and I hardly ever used it. I'm more of a play solitaire/chat on IM/listen to iTunes/answer the phone kind of person, and this game requires your whole computer (and your undivided attention). But so does meditation, which it was supposed to teach me...

Anyway, I don't know if the little bit I used it taught me to change my brainwaves, but it did teach me a breathing technique that seemed to slow my heart rate more quickly than just counting to ten.

I hope it's useful to your son.

At 4:36 PM, Blogger Trillian said...

Thanks for your great comments, all. Arrogant Fool: thanks I'll look up the game and give it a whirl!


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