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Integrative Biofeedback as a concept that helps ADHD LD learning naturally

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Integrative Biofeedback as a concept that helps ADHD LD learning naturally - February 27th, 2006

Hi this is something interesting to read on....

Being in Control
The Role of Integrative Biofeedback in Controlling ADHD- a natural
by Jason Alster MSc

"Being in Control: Natural Solutions for ADHD, Dyslexia, and Test
Anxiety" ( Video/book/biofeedback kit) by Jason Alster MSc ISBN
"BEING IN CONTROL- Natural Techniques For Increasing Your Potential
And Creativity For Success In School" ( book as single item)
(ISBN-9659025114)" ( different ISBN)

Ritalin, the brand name for methylphenidate, is a central nervous
system stimulant that produces pharmacological effects similar to
those of cocaine and amphetamines. While many in the medical
establishment consider the drug an effective way to control ADHD,
others maintain that long-term medication is not the right approach
to treating the condition.

Jason Alster has been treating attention deficit disorder, with or
without hyperactivity with a drug-free method which he calls "Being
in Control." He has written a book by the same name which gives you
natural techniques for increasing your child's potential and
creativity and for improving concentration and learning - all
without the use of drugs. Jason offers us an essay where he
describes how he came to develop this technique using his experience
as a biofeedback therapist.

I began treating children with ADHD quite unexpectedly since 1991. I
had been a biofeedback therapist as part of an anxiety clinic in a
mental day care setting in Tel Aviv, Israel. I had absolutely no
experience in treating children but was doing quite well with adults
suffering from stress disorders and teenagers who had test anxiety
and social phobias. The biofeedback clinic had just opened and each
type of patient was a new experience. With my medical-technological
training in neuro-electrodiagnostics and sleep/wake disorders I was
more into the neurological and psycho- physiological disorders while
a child psychologist working with me wanted to try biofeedback on
ADD. Then he had said that there was no treatment for this poorly
understood syndrome and the only remedy was Ritalin although reports
about EEG biofeedback and Joel Lubar's research with Neurofeedback
were just coming out.

After starting to treat a handful of children with biofeedback the
psychologist had to leave the unit and I had to take over his
patients. All I knew then about ADD was from a television program
showing a hyperactive child literally jump off the walls and I
worried about what this child would do to my biofeedback equipment.
I had absolutely no knowledge of learning disorders either. I
mention this lack of knowledge for a reason. I had to begin treating
ADD without a prior predisposition to what was written in the
literature. I had to see for myself what works, and fast.

So, on my very first ADD patient I preformed a regular biofeedback
stress baseline for anxiety. That is, I hooked the child up to
galvanic skin resistance sensors, muscle, and peripheral temperature
monitors, but not EEG. That is, I had to start to treat ADD with
what I knew and that is how to treat stress and anxiety. And I
lucked out. My very first patients' baseline EMG showed that the
more she sat quietly the EMG gained in amplitude. That is, sitting
quietly was stressful for her. Well, with relaxation training she
had improved her baseline in just 6 sessions and began to do better
at home and in school. This was not suppose to happen. Biofeedback
in ADD was suppose to be a stubborn neurological problem that takes
60 sessions to treat.

ADD is not supposed to be a stress disorder - but is it?

Well one of the problems with ADD is when was the diagnosis made.
Could the ADD be superimposed by anxiety, stress, and emotional
problems. How can one separate the ADD from an emotional picture. Am
I treating the anxiety in the child or the ADD. Well, I lucked out
again, one of my next patients was also a pretty 12 year old young
girl with ADD and a learning disorder as well as a behavioral
problem to boot. She was being expelled from school 20 days a month.
That is almost every day. Her mother approached me because she had
wanted a behavioral treatment before trying medication for the ADD.
I sat her down for a stress baseline too and this time she showed
that the GSR skin response increased in intensity the longer she sat
quietly. The same result in an ADD patient, with a different
physiological measure.

This was not suppose to happen, ADD is not supposed to be a stress
disorder. However, this patient had a diagnosis of ADD with
hypersensitivity, by a respected neurologist, since age 1. That is,
this was a true ADD patient. She also responded to relaxation
treatment in just 8 sessions. She was no longer being expelled from
school anymore. I was onto something here. I began to ask myself,
why am I successful in treating ADD so quickly and others are not.
Why is ADD supposed to be impossible to treat while there are
successes for other more serious chronic medical disorders like
cancer and hypertension.

I asked my patients, what about the biofeedback worked, and they
mentioned the relaxation effect. But ADD is an attention deficit
disorder not a stress disorder- or is it. A closer look then at the
histories of my patients began to show that up to 75% of the ADD
children had other medical problem accompanying the ADD. This could
be ear nose and throat problems, sleep problems, and respiratory
problems, skin problems, and digestive problems as well as school
anxiety issues. Could these associative medical problems exacerbate
the ADD. If so, then relaxation assisted biofeedback would be a
better treatment than medication. That is ADD rarely stands alone.

Like in the story of the Hobbit, the quest was on and my life's work
had been sealed in fate. But I felt that I had the magic bullet and
treasure map. What I had stumbled onto, without fully understanding
at the time, was an objective physiological measure of concentration
in ADD. The first ever. The other measure used in ADD to evaluate
Ritalin was the TOVA (test of variance) and this is not a
physiological measure and is open to subjective interpretation. Well
with this physiological objective measure, the GSR, I could also
determine what interventions work in ADD. I could search every
possible treatment used for relaxation and focusing and measure its
usefulness. The race was on.

When I began to take a look at the literature I found that very few
articles had been written at the time on the treatment of ADD with
Biofeedback. The few ones written mentioned that EMG biofeedback was
not successful in ADD and that just EEG biofeedback had shown some
results but the protocol had to be 60 biofeedback sessions. The work
suggested that ADD is a neurological disorder and therefore EEG
biofeedback would work by regulating EEG brain waves. With this
idea, sympathetic and peripheral biofeedback should be of no
significance in treating ADD children.

In my readings at the time a number of avenues were being pursued in
the treatment of ADD. Some of these were nutrition, and sensory
integration, guided imagery, art therapy, natural meditation, yoga,
Bach flower remedies, homeopathy, chiropractor, and aromatic oils.
In biofeedback, animated computer games were being introduced. I
could use each method and observe their effectiveness. I could
develop an integrated and holistic approach. I could match the
method to each child individually.

Well, one of the first things that I found that causes the GSR to
become stable in ADD children and adults is holding a soft or smooth
stone in your hand. Who would ever expect that this piece of nature
could compete with Ritalin. But it does. I got this idea from the
worry stones and beads of the Middle East.

Well in sensory Integration one is suppose to work on all the
senses - sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. So, listening to the
sound of the waves of the seashell is relaxing for sense of sound,
and so is the sound of the metronome and so are the relaxing sounds
of nature. For touch, I use the soft stones especially egg shaped
ones or stones from a stream or the ocean. The best are the soap
stones and marble ones. A four-legged wooden mas-sager is also good.
For sight- staring at a fish tank, a scenic view, a water wheel. The
water wheels and colorful sand clocks are great because they can
time a relaxation period to two to three minutes. It turns out that
the secret to training in ADD is short relaxation exercises of about
two to four minutes each day for a period of about 2 months. For
smell and taste, the aromatic oils turned out to be great. I let the
child choose up to three oils that he can combine into one. The
combined oil has a better aroma to the client than the 3 oils
separately. Children like mainly citrus oils and these are relaxing,
uplifting, and also help concentration. It turns out that all the
relaxation and focusing exercises have the ability to cause the GSR
to be stable.

Body Armor

To work on the body armor and let the child relax his muscles even
in the classroom where he cannot do a relaxation exercise or
meditation, the seated yoga exercises work well. Some I picked and
choose from different sources like Tai chi, seated yoga, airline
stretching exercises, Jacobson progressive muscle relaxation, and
even Reiki. In the class, the child will often show the teacher the
book Being In Control and arrange that when needed the teacher will
help the child choose an exercise to do instead of just saying "be
quiet" which doesn't work with ADD children.

The relaxation and concentration exercises in children were really
helping and their physiological measures of concentration were
improved as well as their associated medical problems. These could
be a reduction in sleep problems, improved breathing, more strength
for sports and activities. The self, home, social, and behavioral
situation really improved.

Accelerated learning techniques

But - what about grades in school? Some children still did not
succeed after biofeedback. Well, what could be expected, if a child
had poor learning skills developed over the years due to the ADD. So
I concluded that if I was to help these children succeed I would
literally have to go back to school myself to find out how to teach
these children. What I discovered was that to empower children
behind in their learning I could teach them accelerated learning
techniques. These included associative memory techniques for
instance. Using associations between ideas and pictures to help
memory. I found that even people with poor memory could compensate.
If a child remembered only 6 out of 8 items he could increase this
to 15 out of 15 with associative memory. Then I used speed -reading
techniques. Children who read 60 words a minute and barely
remembered what they read the minute before could now read up to 250
words per minute and remember. To help children organize their
thoughts and copy the material during lectures I taught mind
mapping. To improve their cursive handwriting they were taught the
rules of handwriting. This was important to let the child's work
look more organized.

To pass exams they were told to keep them so that why they do not
pass can be evaluated. It turns out that many children do not keep
their exams and thus never know what the right answer is so that
they can make the same mistakes over again. The other main problem
that in many instances the child knew the answer but did directly
answer the question being asked, this especially when a question was
made up of a couple of parts. Children were told to circle the main
ideas of the question to help them better SEE the actual parts of
the question. What turned out was that each issue could be taught
during an hour session combined with a period of biofeedback
practice and relaxation mixed in. Problems that were there for years
were being given a solution within a short time. Parents were also
involved in each session to then also help at home if needed or at
least to recognize the problems and be supportive.

Visual learners

Well with all the talk about learning having to be fun and that many
children with ADD are visual learners, add to this the increased
role of graphics in our cyber world, I came to having each one of
the exercises shown in a graphic format. I had fun with this as I
like painting and photography myself and had an opportunity to add
all my resources into it. Furthermore, the graphic artists were
great, one had dyslexia herself, and really understood the idea. As
I had problems in cursive handwriting and math (I probably have some
math phobia myself) it was a real challenge to discover the roots of
correcting these two problems and condense these skills into one
graphic page one least common denominator.


For handwriting- it turns out that either you know the rules or you
don't. Follow the rules and the handwriting will improve. For
instance, keep all letters on the bottom line. Simple, but not
always done. In math, imagery skills, breaking problems down to
their smaller parts, attacking problems from different angles, and
estimation skills are needed to help succeed in all math.


Finally, if I was asked my opinion about what is the major
difference between the new millennium and the previous one, I would
say it is a higher level of thinking. That is, increases in
creativity and thinking skills are here even for the youngsters.
Therefore, I added a page dedicated to creativity. The bottom line
there is don't be afraid to ask questions (be curious), be
spontaneous, appreciate diversity, let yourself be inspired, and
knowing that today- everyone has the ability to create. My book is a
step in the right direction. So to conclude, the best response I
have received about the book is from the children, they just love
it. It speaks to them. From the parents, it lets them be a part of
the picture too, and from the professionals – "these exercises are
what I have been practicing and preaching for years".

Jason Alster, M.Sc. was born in Hartford, Connecticut and now
resides in Zichron Yacov, Israel with his family. There here set up
a biofeedback clinic and specializes in natural treatments for
learning and attention difficulties. In 1991, Jason received the
Carskadon Award for sleep research.

Jason's yahoo group for natural solutions for ADHD


Best Regards,
Nikhil Gadodia
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