By: Lynette Louise, Autism Specialist(Lynette Louise aka THE BRAIN BROAD is doubly board certified in Neurofeedback and is studying for her PhD in Psychology with a specialty in Psychophysiology at Saybrook University)
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Let me begin by saying that the autistic brain is a relatively unexplored terrain where Neurofeedback is concerned: there are very few studies and hence little verifiable data. This, I believe, is mainly because autistic children can appear non-compliant and as such are traditionally challenging to treat. But another possibly more impactful reason is that those of us who are gaining the experience by treating said population are too busy doing the work to take the time to report upon it. This is a common problem where data gathering and study creation is concerned. However even without things like double blind controlled studies a good practitioner can always take a moment to step back from the picture and peruse the effects of their work. This is like a mental glancing over the empirical data of their clientele and is subject to being adjusted by memory. Still it holds value and guides treatments that will one day be studied more concretely. It a very necessary first step towards gaining the attention of those who will later study your successes and failures. This is the place of miracles, where healing happens before we understand why or how.
FIX IT IN FIVE with LYNETTE LOUISE aka THE BRAIN BROAD
An International Docu-Series that teaches the value of play and neurofeedback for families with autism and other brain dysfunctions. Season One, Uganda – Available On Demand
I am a Neurofeedback practitioner specializing in autism with stories to tell.
Seven-year old Martha, who couldn’t move her mouth or tongue in a purposeful manner, was only able to communicate her wishes through humming songs. Six weeks into Neurofeedback her diction was mostly clear and her ability to pronounce about a hundred words including a wide variety of vegetables was astounding.
My entire life has been affected by autism, as an individual, as a parent, as a grandmother, as an aunt and as a professional. Thus given that I now work to heal this disorder primarily through the use of Neurofeedback – as opposed to the field itself – in my own personal world autism and Neurofeedback is a much-explored terrain. As a direct result of my experience I can clearly state that all the people with autism I have treated thus far benefit in areas of social connectedness, language, cognitive understanding emotional steadiness and sensory normalization. Not only are the benefits profound but they are -across the board- longer lasting, faster to achieve and have a broader reach than any other therapy for autism that I have been personally involved with or been blessed enough to observe.
Two months after starting therapy Jason went from uncontrollable in the outside environment to participating at a high level of excellence in his tap dance recital
I fly all over the world and work in people’s homes. Usually I begin by ‘being with’ the whole family and spending a good deal of play-time with the autistic individual. Once his or her sessions are underway I treat and evaluate all other willing members of the family: this group approach greatly helps in reducing stress, addressing genetic anomalies within the family and meeting head on the changes they and their child are about to undergo. I try to take the ‘mystery out of the therapy’ by training the parents and/or extended family member on how to handle the equipment. At this point a Neurofeedback unit is placed in their home and – under my guidance – throughout the treatment period the parents administer a large portion of the sessions to their child and themselves.
Tracy has dyslexia. She treated herself as well as her two autistic children. She was thrilled to discover the ease with which she was able to read after only fifteen sessions of her own.
Though I do work with high functioning individuals for the most part I am the one you call in after all else has failed. Hence I am often helping older very low functioning autistic people reach for language and social contact. For the families who choose to work under my tutelage, in every case so far, this goal has been successfully met. Being able to run sessions in the home is I believe a strong component in this happy outcome. Having an autistic child receive frequent regular sessions in the comfort of their home environment free of the stress of office visits and augmented by the ability to do a session in the moment of a sensory overload crisis increases the chances of success and removes the feeling of powerlessness that autism can often bring to a family.
Sixteen year old Ian was prone to half hour long unprovoked self-injurious tantrums. Before Neurofeedback this was a source of great stress to the entire family. Once they understood that they had a tool with which to ‘unstick’ their son’s emotional state and help his brain become more flexible they began to do extra sessions whenever their son seemed to need them. This taught his brain a happier, calmer way of functioning. (‘Following the person’ and their behavioral shifts is a skill that must be taught and honed by the family. Thus any therapist helping a family of autism must have a great mastery in this area.) Less then two weeks after this change in the choosing of when to do the sessions Ian himself began to request Neurofeedback whenever he felt a tantrum coming on. Thus his sixteen years of tantrums were eradicated within four months.
My career began – as most things do for me – with my children. From within my family and extended family I had access to six brains on the spectrum and a whole host of other disabilities to practice on. This turned out to be a very valuable beginning. Since they were all volunteer family members being treated for free I was able to be more creative in my protocol choices (One of the great freedoms of neurofeedback is that if you make a mistake and create an adverse reaction you can reverse the situation fairly easily. Thus I felt safe enough to experiment a little.). The other opportunity created by working with this familial group is that since many were adopted the genetics and types of autism all varied greatly. Since I was already trained in following behaviors I was able to follow the changes in my family members with whom I was in constant contact a lot easier than following the behavioral changes of families I was just getting to know would have been. So I learned to do what these autistic fellows needed instead of fearing litigation and simply using the popular protocols of the time.
Five of the six are no longer diagnosable as on the spectrum of autism.
Sometimes professionals in the field refer to a client by saying that they were ‘unresponsive’ treatment. My belief is that the client was just unresponsive to that particular treatment – not the therapy itself. Being able to ‘follow’ the client and utilize a wide variety of protocol choices based on the desires of the patient, the neuroanatomy of the brain and assisted by a thorough knowledge of their diagnosis in my experience allows Neurofeedback to be used to call the brain to heal itself. I am fortunate. My exposure to autism from the 24/7 vantage point of parenting helps me to connect with, prioritize and understand the very real ‘living with the autistic individual’ type problems of my clients. I use this understanding to follow the behavioral changes of the brain of the autistic individual, the brains of the entire group and the dynamics that are created as a result of these changes. The order of operations is often the secret to success so my good fortune was multiplied by the fact that I trained first in ‘following for the purpose of creating beneficial change’ and then in the art of Neurofeedback. I am blessed to have learned Neuroanatomy under the direct supervision of the chief scientist for EEG SPECTRUM and then to have worked side by side with highly respected mentors from the field of Neurofeedback.
So when Chelsea exhibited fine motor issues with her tongue and lips and her brain wave pattern was hypo connected between pre-motor cortex and motor cortex I knew what I had found. Three weeks of Neurofeedback brought the brain wave activity into balance, shortly after that her speech began to follow.
When Sandra exhibited hyper sensitivity to both sound and visual stimulation, that combined with the fact that the area of her angular gyrus where sensory information converges was overwhelmed by delta waves, led to a treatment aimed at reducing this imbalance. Her screaming and shrinking away from strangers behavior dissipated.
Early this year (2007) I was struck by the fact that despite the very varied family situations, genetics, diets bio meds chelation treatment oxygen therapy behavioral approaches etc that my families were also doing all of my children were improving with essentially the same rate of change slightly affected or slowed down only by age. The only truly creditable common denominator I could find was the neurofeedback approach we were using.
AT BEGINNING: Andy (7yrs old) seven years old screaming and singing any one of 150 songs with no eye contact or conversation has a family that does all healing remedies they can find follows GFCF diet and home schools. Carrie (7yrs old) eats all the gluten and dairy she likes takes no supplements and home schools, she had only about ten understandable words with lots of repetitive behaviors and isolated play. Aaron (5yrs old) is integrated and does a few naturopathic support drops, he shouts out numbers and songs and resists change he is very intelligent but extremely exclusive. NOW. Andy (8yrs old) no longer screams, looks, interacts converses but needs control much of the time. Carrie (7yrs old) is extremely affectionate prefers interactive physical play but bores and returns to repetitive play easily she eats a more varied diet and is talking about anything that will get her what she wants. She still has poor pronunciation. Aaron (5yrs old) speaks in a voice appropriate to environment and has begun to include others in his play.
They are all still improving at the same rate of change.
Traditionally when working with autism practitioners calm the right hemisphere primarily on the temporal lobe. This helps to calm many of the kids but can also contribute to a loss of language on kids like Aaron who regressed into silence when this thinking was applied. Fortunately bringing him back even stronger than before was simply a matter of fine-tuning the choices veering away from tradition and using extremely high stimulation on the left frontal lobe. This also seemed to increase his copy skills and could have encouraged the growth of mirror neurons in the anterior cingulate.
My son Rye is another example of tradition failing. When treated in the right temporal lobe he began to tic and stutter. By brightening the left frontal and strongly inhibiting excess alpha this adverse reaction was corrected and his attention span increased. Not until months into therapy could my son handle right side training and even then only in conjunction with the left (in this case on the right and left parietal combined).
Neurofeedback is powerful. It can make a huge difference in brain clarity and function. Best of all there is no end point where one has to say that’s all we can do – it’s the brain – its plastic – it changes – there is always more that can be done – at least until you feel you are – done – enough to move on to other time taking projects and interests. When a family gets to that place with themselves and their child it is truly a cause for celebration.
Of all the miracles I’ve ever seen with happen for someone with autism my son Dar’s Neurofeedback story moves me the most.
Dar began as my first patient. He was twenty-three years old. He was easily frustrated, non-verbal, self- injurious, occasionally violent. When not in a fit of sensory overload he was totally sweet. Dar was 100% dependent on others. His hands were mostly closed he could manipulate very few objects and had an intense tremor whenever purposefully reach for something. I’d done everything I could think of to help him and still he was truly the most autistic man I have met to date. Then Dar did Neurofeedback. By the time he was twenty-six others could understand him a little, he could play his CD player and help fold cloths badly. He still gets better every day. All I do to facilitate that is Neurofeedback. At this point my family coexists in harmony with him and the neighbor kids occasionally invite him along. Best of all he doesn’t hit anyone not even himself. Dar requests Neurofeedback if he feels stressed, though we don’t always understand his request because Neurofeedback is hard to say. According to Dar Neurofeedback makes him ‘always feel better’.
And that’s enough for me.
By: Lynette Louise aka THE BRAIN BROAD
Doubly Board Certified in Neurofeedback and working on her PhD in Psychology with a specialty in Psychophysiology at Saybrook University
Names changed to protect client confidentiality.