An alternative for treating ADHD

Stephen Larsen and Gavin. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

By the time he was 3, teachers at three different preschools admitted that they were unable to contain Gavin’s behavior, which included throwing things, including himself, at other children, as well as scaling playground fences and running away. Diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and a sensory processing disorder that made it impossible for him to be in a group without close one-on-one supervision, his mother, Shanon Murray, was desperate to help him. Though nearly everyone who worked with him suggested Gavin be put on medication, she adamantly refused.

“I had worked at residential treatment centers for children and saw how medication didn’t teach them anything,” Murray explained. “It just drugged them to quell the behaviors that would return when the drugs wore off.”

Murray found some relief from alternative treatments, including homeopathy and diet modifications, removing her son alternately from wheat, dairy and sugar. Gavin also worked with an occupational therapist to help him handle some of his sensory needs. But it wasn’t until he began neurofeedback therapy at Stone Mountain Counseling in New Paltz that she felt they were on the path to real progress.

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When Gavin was 5, he began twice-weekly Low Energy Neurofeedback (LENS) treatments with Steve Larsen, Ph.D., a retired professor of psychology from SUNY Ulster and director of Stone Mountain Center. Unlike traditional biofeedback techniques that teach the brain to function more efficiently according to a patient’s feedback and observation from moment to moment, LENS works below the level of consciousness through an extremely brief electrical stimulus to various sites in the brain. For children with ADHD, studies suggest that the brain generates insufficient beta waves, which are associated with attention, and an overabundance of lower-frequency theta waves, produced during periods of daydreaming or drowsiness.

“Right away I felt that the LENS helped him slow down, giving him that moment of pause so he could utilize everything else he was learning,” Murray said.

Helping brain healing

The sites that are stimulated through electrodes on a patient’s scalp during a LENS treatment correspond to a map made after measuring an individual’s brain waves at specific points. During each treatment, Larsen reads the electromagnetic impulse from a few sites, one at a time, from strongest to weakest. For fractions of a second, the EEG software mirrors those impulses back in a radio frequency far weaker than the field around a digital watch, causing a brainwave fluctuation that permits dysfunctional patterns to correct themselves. Because the LENS is not directed at any specific symptom or illness, but rather works to help the entire nervous system balance itself, its effect can be felt much more quickly than other modalities, according to Larsen.

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