Better Behavior, Better Grades, Better Connections
School has returned, marking another year of possibilities—the possibility to make new friends, learn new things, or, for some, struggle with everything from getting ready in the morning to doing homework at night. These struggles can be a source of immense frustration not only for a kid, but his or her parents, siblings and peers as well. The home and the classroom—places that have potential for harmony and growth—can become places of unrest.
“Many kids have anxiety, ADHD, and a variety of related behavioral issues,” explains Dr. Jolene Ross, Ph.D., of Advanced Neurotherapy, in Needham Heights. “The executive functions, which exist in the frontal lobe of the brain and run the entire show, may be compromised—causing difficulty with cause and effect thinking, emotional control, impulse control, focus and motivation.”
The rise of technology has only intensified these issues. As pre-teens and teens spend four, five, even more than six hours per day in front of a screen, the development of the frontal lobe—again, the executive center that teaches a human how to live in society—is suppressed. Instead, the sensory motor strip and the back of the brain are emphasized; areas of the brain that develop the hand and visual centers as a result of using the electronic device, but contribute less to improved executive function, group interaction, creativity or task completion.
Parents may be compelled to see a conventional doctor and receive a prescription for conventional medication; but, as research reviewed by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows, medication is a short-term solution to anxiety, ADHD and related problems. “Medication is not corrective care,” says Ross. “It may temporarily improve behavior and IQ, but kids typically revert back when they discontinue use.”
Neurotherapy, an integrative therapy developed in the late 1950s by Dr. Barry Sterman of UCLA, is a safe, non-invasive and corrective brain-mapping/training procedure that, according to the National Institutes of Health, helps treat ADHD, anxiety, depression, epilepsy, insomnia, drug addiction, schizophrenia, learning disabilities, dyslexia and more. Over the past two decades, Ross has studied more than 3,500 brain maps in order to pinpoint problems in the brain and figure out exactly what parts of the brain need to work more efficiently.
The neurotherapy sessions begin with an intake, where Ross gathers information from her patient and learns if there is a particular cause for the issues—be it complications at birth, brain trauma, food sensitivities, infection or Lyme disease. She then performs the highly sophisticated, computerized EEG brain map, which monitors the child’s brainwaves. While being monitored, kids will be asked to perform basic tasks such as reading, listening (being read to), closing their eyes, drawing, doing math at their level and more.
Once the data is gathered, Ross follows up with a report, and reviews pictures and graphs with the parent and the child if old enough, to decide related goals and targets. The next step is beginning a series of highly personalized neurofeedback sessions. “Neurofeedback monitors the electrical output of the brain and rewards the brain for good brainwaves,” says Ross. “By using a simple reward system, kids can actually alter their brain activity and enhance brain function and development.” Each session, about an hour long, involves watching images or videos on a computer, and good brain waves are rewarded with a sound and a change on the screen, such as the gradual completion of a puzzled image.
Over the course of the sessions the brain is trained and functioning improves. “Parents are amazed by the results—and will excitedly call to tell me ‘he started his homework,’ or ‘he cleaned his room,’ or ‘she made a new friend,’” says Ross. When brain function is optimized, kids can focus better in school, maintain better social connections and improve in everything from math to sports to poetry. Even when the neurofeedback sessions end, the brain continues on an accelerated trajectory for months.
“I love discovering what’s really going wrong in a child’s brain and correcting it, so that they don’t have to spend their entire life fighting it,” says Ross.
Advanced Neurotherapy is located at 145 Rosemary St., Needham Heights. For more information, call 781-444-9115 or visit AdvancedNeurotherapy.com.
Gina Cronin is a freelance writer for Natural Awakenings magazine. Connect with her at GinaImagines.com.