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Articles    H2'ed 3/4/10

Neurofeedback, Dyslexia, and Learning Disabilities

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The moment a child with learning disabilities enters the classroom, he or she is confronted with numerous challenges. Children with dyslexia and other disabilities can be made to feel stupid, in spite of the fact that they may work much harder than the rest of their classmates just to keep up. For these children, frustration and discouragement are a daily part of life.

For many years, no one really knew how to deal with learning disabilities like dyslexia because experts were unable to pinpoint its cause. Most educators simply ended up trying different methods of teaching, and some would give up and write these children off as slow or unworthy of the extra attention, or conclude that they weren't trying hard enough. Now, however, there may be a helpful tool for children with learning disabilities--a therapy known as neurofeedback.

Neurofeedback therapy uses information about the brain's electrical energy, or brain waves, to literally change the way the brain works. Many children with learning disabilities are simply stuck, so to speak, in the wrong brain wavelength patterns. But through neurofeedback, their brains might be able to be taught to operate on an entirely new level. In fact, a 1985 study found that children with learning disorders who were treated with neurofeedback therapy showed an average IQ increase of nineteen points.

Relatively few full-scale studies on neurofeedback and learning disorders have been conducted, but in several case studies, children have shown remarkable improvement after neurofeedback therapy. An added benefit of neurofeedback treatment is that, unlike many other forms of therapy, it can actually be fun for children, and it can also be quite empowering.

Children find neurofeedback sessions entertaining because many therapists use computer games to bring about the desired changes in brain function. During the sessions, the therapist attaches thin leads to the child's scalp using a water-based gel. This is completely comfortable and pain-free. Some children may have even seen this procedure on TV shows. An EEG machine then reads the child's brain waves and responds in certain ways.

For instance, some machines are connected to computer screens with games that involve getting an airplane to fly or a DVD movie to play. When child's brain is in the right mode, so to speak, the game responds the way they want it to. After several neurofeedback sessions, the child's brain may learn to operate within the normal frequencies, and when the therapy is complete, the brain may continue to function effortlessly within these frequencies.

In addition to helping the child overcome learning disabilities, the ability to play a game using only their mind can give a tremendous boost to a child's self-esteem. Children with learning disabilities can spend all of their school years just trying to get things right. Now, however, they have visible proof that their mind can make things happen. This is especially powerful if children start to notice real-life differences after their first 10 - 20 neurofeedback sessions.

If you know a child who struggles with a learning disorder, you no doubt want to do everything in your power to help that child operate at his or her full potential. Neurofeedback is one therapy that may do this for children.

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Dr. Clare Albright is a psychologist and neurofeedback practitioner in Orange County, CA. She is the author of, "Neurofeedback: Tranforming Your Life with Brain Biofeedback" Dr. Albright has been counseling in Orange County for over 26 years.
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