Posts tagged ‘focus’

Difficulty at the Start of the New School Year?

For most parents, the new school year brings the feeling of accomplishment and pride of seeing their children grow and mature in aptitude, knowledge, and social skills. For some parents, however, it only brings long nights of homework, calls from the teacher, frustrated and discouraged children, and parenting fights about whose fault “all of this” is. There is also the pain of watching your child sink into believing they are not smart, are a “bad boy or girl”, or are not worth much. No parent or child should ever have to experience this.

A typical school year requires sustained attention, sitting quietly, and refined social skills. Some children are not capable of this. A mother recently told me, “I’m worried… Sammy is having such an awful time in school this year.” Sammy is being grounded in the classroom with no recess because he is behind in his work. “We are constantly doing homework and he is still behind,” she continued. To add to his academic problems, Sammy is spending most of his time at school in social isolation; even when he is free from being “grounded” in the classroom, he is the last one picked for teams and the first one to be teased.

A very significant possibility exists that the conditions described above (some or all) are being caused by a disorder called ADD or ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder). This disorder is caused by a minor neurological imbalance (not parenting style!) and, for the vast majority of those with ADHD, can be corrected relatively easily. What makes the aforementioned tragic self-image even more unacceptable is that fact that the opposite is usually true. Individuals with ADHD (ADD) typically have a higher than average IQ and, although sometimes hidden behind the disorder, a very pleasant disposition.

Whenever such problems are occurring, it is extremely important to determine if ADHD is behind them as soon as possible. Don’t wait until your child’s first report card to initiate testing or treatment. By then, your child is already significantly behind. If there’s one thing harder for a child with ADHD than school, it is the downward sliding struggle to catch up.

Unfortunately, many parents of children with ADHD, or those who suspect it might be present, avoid testing and treatment because of their understandable dread of what they think must be the inevitable “drug” solution. Fortunately, for most individuals, there is a much better alternative.

This treatment is called neurofeedback, an effective, drug-free, painless procedure in which the child learns to re-train the attention mechanisms of the brain, alleviating the condition. Once training is completed, no further treatment is necessary.

October 10, 2012 at 1:58 pm Leave a comment

Can we still rescue this school year?

This is the time of year when many parents whose children have struggled with school start to either despair or panic.  Most parents will say: “We’ve done everything we can; we’ve talked to him (or her), we’ve encouraged him, we’ve pushed him as hard as we can, we’ve even tried tutoring and counseling, hoping for the best, and nothing seems to have gotten better.  The school is talking about holding him back and/or putting him in a special class”.

 Most of the time, as I inquire further into the child’s problems, I will hear that he (or she) is having significant problems academically and can’t seem to focus or retain what he’s learned at home, or is having lots of behavior problems at school, lacks confidence, is isolated… or all of the above.  

This question actually has two parts to it.  For the first part: No, it is definitely not too late to get help for this school year.  It is at the end of the school year that the evaluations and decisions are made as to what is best for the child in the coming year and we are definitely not at that point yet.  I have worked with many teachers, and I am consistently told that if they see significant improvement in academics and/or behavior before the end of the year, it can definitely effect their decisions.

Parental attitude toward this question is also critically important to their child.  Your decision to accept these problems as unavoidable and/or to give up on this school year, as opposed to not giving up and continuing to find the solution to your child’s difficulties, makes an indelible impression on how your child sees themselves and their approach to solving problems.  If you take the first option, things will probably get worse for them as they will sense you’re giving up, and they will too.  They will also think less is expected of them and they may put forth less effort.  If you choose the second option, and ground that for them firmly in the fact that the problems do not represent their true self or abilities, and that they are worth these extra efforts to solve the problems, then you have the opposite effect and their self esteem and effort climbs. So does your chances of final success for the school year. 

The second part of the question regards whether or the not the proper underlying cause of the problem is being addressed.  While tutoring and counseling definitely have their place, the problems mentioned here are more likely stemming from ADHD.  Furthermore, the effectiveness of tutoring, counseling, and many other interventions will be significantly reduced if the underlying ADHD is not treated first.  This is a disorder that many parents reject testing for and if present, treating, because they understandably fear what they think is the unavoidable use of medication with its undesirable side-effects and rigors.  There is, however, a much preferable alternative to this scenario, and that is neurofeedback.  

Neurofeedback is an effective, drug and side-effect free procedure in which the individual learns to retrain the attention and/or impulse control mechanisms of the brain, alleviating the condition.  Once training is completed, no further treatment is necessary. 

In conclusion: No, if the parents don’t give up on the school year (or their child), and the true underlying cause of the problem is identified and corrected, it is definitely not too late  to save this school year, and the decision to do so is critical for your child.

April 11, 2012 at 12:08 am Leave a comment

ADHD Basics

ADHD (ADD) is an abbreviation for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  There is some confusion with the initials and names used for this disorder.  ADHD actually means Attention Deficit, with or without Hyperactivity, Disorder.  Some people think that attention and hyperactivity (and/or impulsivity) need to be present in order for the disorder to be there, and this is a mistake.  There are actually three sub-types of this disorder: Primarily Inattentive, Hyperactive-Impulsive (either or both), and the Combined Type (all three).  When speaking with true professionals who specialize in this disorder, these misconceptions and misunderstandings should not be a problem.

ADHD is one of the most common childhood behavior disorders.  Of all children referred to mental health professionals, about 35% are referred for ADHD – more than any other condition.  It is estimated that approximately 9% of all children are troubled with this disorder. 

The first step to take in determining if this disorder is present is to do the proper testing, usually, once again, by an independent professional.  Frequently, it is very unfortunate that medication and treatment are prescribed based solely on a parent’s or anothers opinion or observation.  While these may be well intentioned, they are usually not based on the proper criteria or knowledge.  In the cases where testing is actually being done, it is based largely only on symptoms.  While symptoms are important, and indeed are the true “real world” problems, there are other causes than ADHD that can bring about ADHD-like symptoms.  The only way to determine if ADHD is truly present, in conjunction with the symptoms, is to look at the organ in question, which in this case is the brain.  This is done through brain monitoring (EEG analysis), which is a painless non-invasive test.  This is the only objective way to determine if the disorder is present.

There are basically three forms of treatment.  Therapy or cognitive-behavioral treatment: These forms of treatment mostly offer support in learning to live with the disorder.  Since ADHD is a neurological disorder, and not an emotional or psychologically based problem, these treatment options are quite limited in treating the disorder.   Medication: Usually effective in treating the disorder, however, there are frequently unwanted side effects, and, since the medication is only effective while it is in the bloodstream, the medication needs to be taken for life.  Neurofeedback:  An effective, side-effect free treatment in which the child retrains the underlying mechanisms that cause the disorder.  Once treatment is complete, no further sessions are necessary.

Many parents avoid testing and/or treatment for ADHD because they understandably fear the side-effects and need for lifetime use of what they mistakenly think is the only remedy to the problem, medication.  There is, fortunately, an alternative to this scenario.  Neurofeedback is a proven, painless, and effective solution to the problem of ADHD,which opens for the person the opportunities they deserve for a lifetime of learning, growing, and relating well with others.

January 26, 2012 at 1:57 am Leave a comment

Two Distinctly Different Paths for Treatment of ADHD: Neurofeedback or Medication

Neurofeedback (EEG-Biofeedback) and medication are the two most common forms of treatment fo ADHD (ADD).  Both are successful in treating these disorders in a large majority of cases.  There are, however, significant differences in the ways these treatments work, the potential side effects of their use, the length of treatment necessary, and importantly, the lessons learned by the child of how to correct personal problems. 

Most of the most commonly prescribed medications for ADHD are dervied from some form of stimulant or antidepressant.  Most of these medications carry the FDA’s “Black Box Warning” Labels, and should be used with caution.  These warnings refer to the possibility of serious cardiovascular side effets, as well as the possible suppression of children’s growth, and heightened risk for psychosis, bi-polar illness, and aggression. 

In addition to these problems, this class of medications is also associated with the following serious potential side effects: weight loss in children, overstimulation of the central nervous system, dizziness, difficulty sleeping, tremors, headaches, and tics or Tourettes Syndrome.

Now, let us take a look at how these different treatments work.  The medications contain artifical chemicals, which increase neurotransmitter levels in the brain, allowing the brain to function better, thus alleviating the condition.  As these chemicals are artificial, and foreign to the body, they may cause unfavorable reactions in the brain, and therefore brings about the aforementioned negative side effects.

Neurofeedback trains the brain to funciton faster through a highly specialized type of exercise.  As the brain learns to function faster, it naturally increases its production of neurotransmitters, and the brain functions better, thus treating the condition.  The end result is the same in both forms of treatment… with one very big difference.  As neurofeedback does not introduce anything unnatural into the brain, and rather trains the brain to function better through its own natural mechanisms (i.e. it learns or teaches itself to improve), it produces none of these side effects.  As vulnerable as children are, the last thing we want to do is expose them to these unnecessary dangers. 

Finally, length of treatment is another big difference.  Medication is a lifetime process, as it is only effective while it is in the bloodstream.  Therefore, no amount of medication will ever produce a lasting effect.  The medication must be continually taken to treat the condition, with once again, the continuing potential for these serious side effects and health dangers.  Neurofeedback, on the other hand, is a “one time” treatment for this disorder.  It is a far simpler solution, once treatment is complete, no further sessions are necessary.

Finally, there is a subtle lesson being taught to the child about how to deal with life’s problems. It is a lesson that will assume major importance as the child grows older.  The lesson is “Do I take a substance to be smarter, get my work done more quickly, and be more popular- getting along better with others… or do I improve my capacities, performance, and relationships with others through working on and improving myself?”  The abuse of these medications is already growing steadily in schools.  As the child grows older (and, unfortunately, this is happening at a younger and younger age) they will be presented with increasingly more dangerous substances to deal with essentially (if not exactly) the same questions.  In many ways, the stage is already being set by the way in which parents choose for their child to deal with their ADHD.

Once neurofeedback treatment is completed, no further treatment is necessary, and the child learns a healthy lesson about the right way to strengthen their abilities.  With neurofeedback, there are no side effects, the treatment is a one-time process, and the child avoids learning a potentially dangerous lesson, and instead learns a healthy one of self-reliance and self-improvement.  Neurofeedback is an effective, drug free, painless procedure in which the child learns to retain the attention mechanisms of their brain , alleviating the condition. 

If you, or someone you know, is interested in learning more about Neurofeedback or would like to schedule an evaluation, please contact Dr. Ferrari at Alta Neuro-Imaging (Placentia, CA).

December 9, 2011 at 12:20 am Leave a comment

Homework Problems… And Solutions

In my many years of experience helping children and parents with academic and behavioral problems, one of the most common issues is difficulty with homework.  The purpose of homework is to allow the child further opportunities to independently master their coursework, and perhaps allow the parent to become involved in what is happening for their child at school.

If homework is often a problem for a child, several confounding factors may have developed which add significantly to the problem, in a cumulative fashion.  Past assignments that need to be made up (undone or never turned in) and uncompleted class work that is sent home can add much to the burden.  Additionally, with homework being a recurring problem, your child may have developed the behaviors of “hiding” homework or being deceptive about what or when something is due.

A typical “problem homework” scenario may include some or all of these patterns. After much cajoling and struggling, the parent gets the child to begin their homework.  Then ensues in long battles that last multiple hours, involving countless distractions, struggles (and phone calls?) to understand the material and directions which unfortunately, the inattentive child did not get straight in class, and outbursts of frustration and anger occur from both parties.  The outcome of this homework session is (along with hopefully some learning), exhaustion, hurt feelings, distrust, lowered self-esteem, and anger.  Does this sound familiar…?

What’s very important to understand , and to correct this scenario, is that the child may have Attention Deficit Disorder.  With the ADHD child, they cannot stop this from happening; it’s part of the uncorrected disorder.  However, often teachers, other students, and parents lose site of this, and blame the child.  The result is a child who feels very badly about themselves, and gives up, or rebels, or both.

These daily episodes are very damaging to family dynamics.  In addition to the harm done to the parent-child relationship, there are other significant consequences.  Other childrens’ needs go unattended (not to mention the parent’s), important tasks around the house go undone (dinner anyone?), and last, but definitely not least, the parent’s own relationship suffers as blaming, overwork, and loss of quality time together are also casualties.

Remember what we said homework was for and was supposed to be like in the first paragraph? The homework experience with the ADHD child is not any kind of “Building Up”… it is a “Tearing Down” experience.

Fortunately, this can be changed, without the side-effects and rigors of medication.  Neurofeedback is an effective, drug free, painless procedure in which the child learns to retrain the attention mechanisms of their brain, alleviating the condition.  Once training is completed, no further treatment is necessary.

November 28, 2011 at 9:34 pm Leave a comment

Students Who Can Really Benefit From Help at the Start of the School Year

As a psychologist specializing in helping students improve their academic and behavioral experience in school for over 16 years, I have come to identify certain types of students who benefit the most from specialized types of help.  These are students that can make big time improvements at the start of the academic year.

The first type is the student who struggles significantly with homework (which icnreases in amount and  difficulty each year).  This is usually a problem with attention span, task completion, and/or organization.  Problems such as homework taking too long, not being completed, not being turned in, or not being brought home, all fall into this category.

A second type is the child who has to work too hard to get what success they can.  Poor grades and difficulty with testing are typical for this child.  These are children who often can do OK when the work  is done “one-on-one”, but are too distracted in group settings such as the classroom or group activity.

The third type is the student who has significant difficulties with his or her behavior.  They may be getting into trouble frequently, and as a result may even be getting blamed for things that they don’t do.  This behavior may make it hard to make friends (or the right kind of friends) and lead to feelings of isolation.  They can often be held in or punished at recess (further isolation), and may begin to believe that they are troublemakers, or “bad” kids.  The resulting damage to self esteem from this, and the other above patterns, can shape self-fulfilling self-images that are very sad to see develop.

Unfortunately, it may be difficult for parents to see these problems.  They may feel that these problems for their child are “not that bad” or “I had the same problems when I was a child” (do we really want them to carry the same burdens?), or “they will probably grow out of it.”  As parents, we need to be proactive regarding our children’s challenges and protect them for these obstacles, they will learn how to treat themselves from how we treat them with their difficulties.

As we mentioned earlier, many of these difficulties are caused by aptitude deficiencies whihc are quite correctable.  Many of the students with these difficulties suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD), either diagnosed or undiagnosed.  Proper testing and/or treatment of this disorder are critical for these children’s well being.  Many parents also resist testing and treatment because they fear the side effects and rigor of what they believe is the only treatment: medication. This is, unfortunately, still a popular misconception.

Fortunately, there is an alternative to this scenario.  Neurofeedback is a proven, effective, drug and side effect free procedure in which the individual retrains the attention mechanisms of the brain, alleviating the condition.  Once treatment is complete, no further training is necessary.

If you would like more information about Neurofeedback, please contact Dr. Ferrari at his Southern California office, Alta Neuro-Imaging Neurofeedback.

September 15, 2011 at 12:24 am Leave a comment

The Neurology of Attention or Inattention (ADHD)

There are many different ways in which the underlying neurology, or physiological causes of ADHD can be described.  There are many good articles that delve into the underlying neurological structures involved in this disorder, or that discuss the role of various neurotransmitters and receptor sites.  However, I feel that the way we all can best relate to the causes of ADHD is to think of it in terms of inter-related functions of the brain.  Or, put another way, discussing how the brain goes about doing certain things, and where ADHD interferes with that.

The first or “gateway” function of the brain, from moment to moment, is to monitor our surroundings.  That is how it keeps us safe.  Our senses detect characteristics of our environment (touch, taste, smell, sound, and sight) and brings them into our brain.  This is called sensory function.  From there, our brain processes or identifies theses sensory inputs.  This is called sensory processing and it is how we know what is going on around us.

Once our brain knows what is happening around or to us- whether it is the numbers on a page, the words someone is saying, or a movement we detect, etc.- another set of functions begins.  These functions are “executive” functions, in which our brain decides first, which of all the things it is aware of, both externally (sensory processing) and internally (memory, emotion, analyzing, etc.) is the most important at the moment.  Secondly, the brain will then minimize our awareness of the non-important things and maximize our awareness of the non-important things and maximize our awareness of the most important thing.  Essentially, this is how we focus or pay attention.

ADHD interferes with this process in a critical way.  As we have seen, the process of paying attention involves several functions.  The “executive” functions cannot take place until sensory processing or identification has taken place.  With the inattentive form of ADHD, there is a delay in sensory processing.  This delay is in terms of milliseconds; however, it is signficant enough that it, in turn, delays the executive functions.  This delay in deciding which “thing” in the environment is the most important causes the brain (in order to “keep us safe”) to spread our attention across a number of things.  Unfortunately, this results in a deficit of attention on the things we should be attending to.

Many parents avoid testing for and/or treating ADHD because they fear what they think are the unavoidable side effects and rigors of medication.  By utilizing a treatment called neurofeedback, a child or adult can re-teach the sensory functions of the brain, including processing, to ameliorate the disorder.  Neurofeedback is a painless and effective process, where there is no side effects and no maintainance or re-training is needed after treatment is completed.  It allows for focus, task completion, organization, and a variety of other symptoms to be controlled and become the way they should be.  Please feel free to contact Alta Neuro-Imaging for additional information in regards to neurofeedback, or to set up a consultation with Dr. Ferrari at his Orange County facility.

March 30, 2011 at 10:38 pm Leave a comment


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