ADHD, Anger Outbursts, Emotional Meltdowns

I had read up about ADHD but did not want to admit to myself that such a ‘label’ should be attached to my boy. After all, apart from the ‘racing motor’ and high-energy, and everything being an argument and a constant battle of wits; and apart from the frequent ‘meltdowns’, with gales of tears; and aside from the calls from school about Kyle calling out in class and refusing to listen to his teachers; the altercations with other kids; the outbursts and taking huge offence at the slightest thing, Kyle didn’t have any of the usual indicators for ADHD… did he? Looking back now I can see that I was in denial but after one too many calls from the school about yet another ‘incident’ I reluctantly agreed for him to be assessed.

I remember the psychiatrist looking at the assessment forms we had filled in and saying “You’ve marked him positive on every single dimension, the diagnosis is clear and he should go on Ritalin”. I wasn’t keen but was persuaded that the far greater risk for Kyle was that he would be unsuccessful at school, find university impossible, battle to hold down a job and quite likely be unsuccessful in maintaining relationships into adulthood. So medication commenced and his behaviour at school improved dramatically.

Although the incidents at school had greatly reduced in number, we continued to get the dreaded phone call and every time it was for the same thing. Some small incident would have set Kyle off and by the time we were called he would have run away, or retaliated by poking someone with a pencil, or have knocked desks over or have threatened to hurt himself with a stick, or have gone into the toilets and refused to come out, or have defied the principal, or called the teacher a stupid, fat idiot.

The day I first read about Neurofeedback I knew I wanted Kyle to do it – it just made such perfect sense to me and I was delighted to learn that it was available in Auckland. After a short phone-call with Monique we set up an appointment.

After some preliminary discussion about Kyle’s history and background, Monique explained to us that ADHD is really just a cluster of observed behaviours grouped into a ‘diagnosis’. Every child is different because every brain is different – again it all made sense. After doing a brainwave assessment Monique showed us the pattern of Alpha brain-wave activity consistent with Kyle’s impulsivity and recommended a course of 1 hour sessions, initially twice a week and then weekly.

It was fascinating to watch Kyle do the sessions and what immediately struck me was how calm he was on the way home afterwards. Monique said not to expect dramatic results straight away, but to take note of any changes to help fine-tune the treatments during the course. As the weeks went by I started to notice subtle changes, things like realising one morning that Kyle had gotten himself up and dressed all on his own five days in a row. Or the day I realised that he was in bed and asleep before 10pm for the first time ever!

It wasn’t just the absence of negative behaviours – we started noticing some really positive things too, like the day Kyle said “I got blamed for something I didn’t do at school today but I decided to just let it go because it’s easier for everyone”.  More and more I found myself wondering what had happened to the old Kyle and who was this much calmer, more rational and empathetic creature was who inhabited his head.

We are not yet at the point where we want to risk sending Kyle to school without medication, but I have no doubt that we will get there. He has now completed the Brainwise neurofeedback sessions with Monique, but we continue to see signs that his brain has ‘learned’ and that he is applying that knowledge in his daily life and in his interactions with his colleagues and sports teammates.

In particular, I love that Kyle has become so much more empathetic and caring of others – something I did not expect ever to be able to say of my son. Did neurofeedback work for Kyle? Either that or I believe in miracles.

TH, father of Kyle aged 11.