Three letters parents don't want to hear ADD, attention deficit disorder. One child out of twenty in this country has been diagnosed with it. The first line of treatment is medication, but the side effects can leave kids lethargic. Now, researchers are finding ways kids can control their emotions without drugs.
Watching 12-year-old Alex ride his bike, you'd never know he struggles with ADD.
"I knew that I had a problem, and I knew that I wanted to fix it," says Alex Goode.
Outside of school, Alex was tired all the time. In school, he couldn't concentrate.
"I just couldn't get my thoughts out because I was always staring off into space," says Alex.
Then Alex met Shyra, a black lab and Dr. Jeffrey Fannin's sidekick. Shyra eases the tension, while Dr. Fannin works with Alex to change his behavior.
"What we're trying to do with Alex is speed up the front part of his brain. Typically with attention deficit disorder, we have too much slow-wave activity in the front of the brain," says Dr. Fannin, a neurotherapist at the Center for Cognitive Enhancement at Glendale, AZ.
Dr. Fannin performed brain mapping on Alex using EEG imaging. Brain mapping illustrates deficiencies in different areas of the brain. With the help of a listening tool and graphics, Alex can actually see and hear his brainwaves and therefore learn how to increase his own brain activity. Several sessions later, Alex is able to concentrate again.
"The brain will then learn, 'Oh yes; when I'm reading or doing homework, I'm supposed to speed up' because he's getting the auditory response," says Dr. Fannin.
Over time, Alex won't need the high-pitched listening tool to tell him he's on the right track. He's already noticing a difference.
"From getting ready for school in the morning to doing my homework, I can't name a thing that this training hasn't helped me in," says Alex.
Alex goes for treatment twice a week. It's expensive, but Dr. Fannin says 85 percent of his patients learn to do the treatment at home.
Here is the process brainmap follows.
Step 1: this procedure provides information about brainwave activity. An electroencephalogram (EEG) measures activity in the brain by taking readings from 19 locations on the scalp. The EEG equipment measures electrical brainwave impulses, and a computer processes that information to become a brainmap. This helps doctors understand the patient's emotional and behavioral problems.
Step 2: Evaluation: The patient then goes through a scientific assessment via the Internet. This assessment allows the patient to examine his own behavioral preferences. After the assessment, the analysis can be compared to a database of others that exhibit better behavioral tendencies and thinking patterns.
Step 3: Consultation: After the brainmap and assessment, the doctor provides an interpretation with explanations and a prescription for making the necessary changes. This information is posted on the center's Web Site, which the patient can access using a password. During the training cycle, results are posted so the patient can see his progress.
Step 4: Train: an audio visual entertainment (AVE) device and specialized CDs are used to influence the thalamus deep inside the brain. The thalamus regulates different frequencies that influence our thinking, emotions and behavior. Most patients train two to three times a week for about 45 minutes to one hour. Technology now allows patients to train at home. The use of the neurofeedback equipment allows new neuropathways to develop, which enables the brain to function in the way it has been trained. Once trained, the brainwave patterns developed tend to strengthen and continue activity in the way they were trained.
Dr. Fannin says a typical 50-session package will vary in cost from clinician to clinician. His patients who train from home pay $3,850 for 50 sessions. He has a new "cubicle" program available that allows him to train multiple people at once from his office for about $180 a month. Dr. Fannin says other clinicians may charge as much as $9,000 for a complete program.
Note: NewsChannel 11 is not endorsing this technique, only providing information that it is a new option to some families trying to avoid medication for add. For more information, click here.