from Chapter Four
Healing the Mind of Childhood
Cerebral Palsy, Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, Reactive Attachment Disorder, ADD/ADHD and LD, Childhood Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Curtis Cripe, Ph.D., Sarah Harber, M.A., Stephen Larsen, Ph.D., Theresa Yonker, M.D.
“Why does my brain come in colors?”
Four-year-old Paul (on first seeing his brain map)
This chapter explores one of the most rewarding aspects of neurofeedback: working with children. We discuss working with children as young as six months, all the way through childhood and puberty, to the later teenage years. The sensitive, less fully formed nervous system of the child responds beautifully to the LENS.
Diagnostic categories covered include the Autistic spectrum (including Asperger’s Syndrome), ADD and ADHD, PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder), CP (Cerebral Palsy), RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder--an awful condition of neglected, abused, or abandoned children), OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) and other anxiety disorders, Oppositional Defiance, and Impulsive Disorders.
We usually tell parents that we are probably not going to cure their child’s problem. We may, however, help them to be more flexible, adaptable, and to learn better. These are not, in fact, small things for the parents of Autistics who have to mix in society and have their children educated in some school or other social situation. As we have already shown, the LENS seems to increase cortical flexibility, decrease rigid and inflexible adaptations, and harmonize and balance the activity of the CNS. When fully explained to them, they usually like the idea that we do not try to “micromanage” their child’s brain, nor drug or brainwash them. Unlike protocols that either deliberately attempt to speed up or slow down the brain, LENS lets the child’s brain do its own regulating.
The LENS is uniquely suited to work with infants and very young children because of its passive nature. There is nothing that needs to be understood, or even communicated verbally, to the child, no “training protocol,” and, wonderful to say, no activity to succeed or fail at. This makes it the neurofeedback par excellence for these very young patients and for diagnostic categories normally thought of as very difficult to treat but with a clearly neurological basis, such as autism.
Over a complete course of treatment, the LENS can be combined with traditional neurofeedback, HeartMath, Interactive Metronome, expressive arts--such as clay, painting, or sand play--as well as other cognitive and behavioral approaches. In general, we like to do the LENS work first, because then the nervous system of the child is more amenable to new learnings. The metaphor that keeps coming to mind is Biblical: new seeds sown on fertile rather than “hard” ground are more likely to sprout!
Unfolding Jessica: Cerebral Palsy in a Three Year Old
Jessica is three years old and diagnosed with moderate cerebral palsy (CP). The origins of her problem are unknown, but there was heavy crop spraying where her parents lived when she was perinatal. She was born with a rotated brain stem, the left portion of which was shrunken but not totally missing, and a very small left cerebellar lobe. She was a late birth with a disintegrated placenta, and a thick white film present over her whole body.
Though beautiful, with delicate features and blond hair, when Jessica was brought to the office, she showed a severe right hemiplegia; her head was skewed to the right, as in tortocollis, the right eye seemed permanently shut, and her right hand was stiff and spastic, used as a claw, when used at all. She had low energy for a three year old, and woke frequently at night. She was able to crawl with assistance. She did not have language, but with the help of a weekly speech therapist had been able to speak in one-word utterances accompanied by pointing. Her disabilities were thought to be permanent and irremediable, but the family had been doing Feldenkrais exercises with her since about six months of age. We are pretty sure this gentle muscular and neural stimulation paved the way for the amazing results.
Sessions were begun twice a week, the parents having been warned to look for the signs of overdose--i.e., tired or wired. Jessica was treated at four sites per session, moving along the Total Amplitude site sort, and stimulated at +5 for six seconds, a twelve second pause, and then a stimulation at +10 for six seconds (total of 12 sec. per site = 24 sec. total).
After session one, her mother reported that she started speaking in two- to three-word--but complete--sentences for the first time ever: “I wan’ dat!” “Dat bear mine!” Sleep improved. Jessica was exploring new ways of using her right hand.
After session two she was reported sleeping very well--best ever.
After session three she was noticed picking things up with her right hand. She had much more energy. Her grandparents noticed that she was more alert--they said it was “a striking difference.”
After session four Jessica began doing somersaults. She crawled over to the ottoman, pulled herself up and walked around it, and after that breakthrough began regular “couch cruising.” Now she was usually speaking in three-word utterances. Her speech therapist was thrilled. Jessica sang “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” completely unassisted (first time ever). To her parent’s astonishment and mild shock, she pulled herself up the facade of the TV and turned it off with her right index finger manipulating the knob (she seemed to already know just where the device was to be turned off!). Her parents reported at this point that her energy now seemed a little daunting--she was becoming like any other three year old!”