Dr. Phil Show – December 2004
In his book, The ADD Answer, Dr. Frank Lawlis offers information on using biofeedback technology to help improve symptoms of ADD.
Study after study has shown that the symptoms of attention deficit disorder can be controlled through biofeedback, although this approach is not an absolute cure for every aspect of ADD. However, it has worked well in helping a child learn to control disruptive thoughts and impulsive behaviors that impair the ability to focus and concentrate.
Biofeedback offers therapies that help ADD children learn to control basic stress reactions, such as heart rate and cardiovascular reactivity. It works best with children willing to take responsibility for their own actions, and it can make a huge difference in a child's learning ability and self-esteem.
In biofeedback, computer images and sounds provide images of what is going on inside the patient's body. There are five major biofeedback technologies used by mental health professionals for ADD:
- Thermal monitoring - using temperature biofeedback
- Pulse monitoring - pulse meters or EMG
- Electroencephalogram - EEG
- Galvanic skin response - GSR
- Respiratory patterning
Thermal and pulse monitoring reflect how your cardiovascular system is responding, and the electroencephalogram shows how your brain is functioning. The galvanic skin response reflects overall emotional responses on the skin. Respiratory patterning has been used to help people alter how they breathe and to monitor destructive patterns.
Not every child's symptoms can be relieved through biofeedback treatments. Take the Biofeedback Audit to help you assess whether or not this is an option you want to pursue. (Or For more information on alternative therapies for ADD, click here).
Nicole's son Austin has always been a handful. "He kicks, screams and yells when he doesn't get his way," says Nicole. He once lit a poster in his room on fire and almost burned down the house. Austin has taken a variety of medications over the last few years, but he suffers side effects. "I don't want to take the medication," Austin says. "I hate life because I take it." His mom wants him off the drugs. "When he's on the medication, Austin has no appetite. He's lethargic. He will be a zombie," Nicole says. When he went off the medication, he gained weight, his appetite increased and he grew three inches in two months. "He is outside playing, running, screaming, hollering, being a normal 7-year-old," she says. But Austin's school sees things differently. "His teachers have always told me that he needs medication to stay in school. I feel like I don't have any other choices," she explains. Nicole wants to know if there is an alternative to giving Austin drugs.
Dr. Phil asks Nicole what Austin is like when he is not on the medication." He doesn't focus in school. It's hard for him. He's a bully," she tells him. She is confident that he has ADD/ADHD because she sees the hyperactivity, and he doesn't socialize very well. Dr. Lawlis confirms that the medical analysis indicates Austin's ADHD patterns. Dr. Phil also points out that Nicole's house is a lot like Lynn and Doug's. She yells, screams and gives into Austin's tantrums to avoid confrontation.
"It hurts me to discipline him," Nicole admits.
"You have to be willing to visit the structure. You have to be willing to bring the predictability, the consistency and the discipline," Dr. Phil says to Nicole. "It's not something you should feel guilty about, you should feel guilty if you don't do it because he needs the structure. He needs the guidance. He needs the order. He needs the rhythm. He needs all of the things that are necessary to give him a chance to have a flow to his life."
Dr. Phil points out that Austin does much better behaviorally when he's with his father, and his father's house is more structured than Nicole's.
Dr. Lawlis says that if parents are hyper-vigilant about what they feed their child, they can stop the hyper behavior. He came up with a fun way for parents to children to test which foods are good for them and which foods are bad; it's called muscle testing kinesiology.
He has Austin hold two of his fingers together very tightly so he can't undo them. If you're holding foods that aren't good for you, your grip won't be as strong. Dr. Lawlis has Austin hold a variety of foods including, chicken strips, grapes, a cucumber and others, as he tests his grip.
Dr. Lawlis explains why foods are so important in managing this disorder. "For one thing, the brain doesn't necessarily use all the foods we give it in the best way, and actually the rawer the food, the more natural the food, the easier it is for the brain to metabolize it and use it for its use. So when you create a food that's not natural, that's been fried or created with a great deal of heat, it just doesn't work as well," he says.
In his book and in person with Austin, who was hooked up to an EEG, Dr. Lawlis explains how a child with ADHD can actually control his brain wave patterns and activity. With the help of a psychologist or a psychiatrist who does biofeedback training, a child can control his brain without medication.
Dr. Phil reminds Nicole that she needs to change her parenting. "You've got to step up and discipline this child with structure. He has to be able to predict the consequences of his actions with 100 percent accuracy. That means you have to be very, very consistent," he tells her.
He also suggests that she watch Austin's diet, keeping him away from processed foods, sugar, high carbohydrates, and fried foods.
Nicole says that she will embrace these ideas and apply them with Austin.