Symptoms of Dyslexia and Neurofeedback

Image courtesy of Phaitoon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Phaitoon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Diagnosing a child with a learning disability can be difficult considering all children learn at their own pace. However, all parents should be keeping a close eye on their children’s studies and grades to examine if they are exhibiting symptoms indicative of a learning disability. In fact, fifteen to twenty percent of the population has a reading disability. Dyslexia is a learning disability affecting both oral and written language abilities, affecting both males and females equally. Children inherit genetic links, so if you have a learning disability, it is not unlikely your child may as well.

Children who struggle with dyslexia are often diagnosed by the symptoms they have displayed both at home and/or in the classroom. Though symptoms displayed from young ages persist throughout life, dyslexia is symptomatic in different ways at different ages throughout the child’s life.

Signs of Dyslexia

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Preschool – Difficulties with:

  • Learning the ability to talk
  • Adding vocabulary
  • Pronunciation
  • Recalling the right words
  • Learning the alphabet
  • Spelling
  • Identifying colors, shapes, days of the week by name
  • Following directions with steps
  • Telling stories correctly
  • Separating sounds in words

Kindergarten-Fifth Grade – Difficulties with:

  • Consistent reading and spelling mistakes
  • Letter reversals, such as confusing d for b
  • Word reversals, such as top for pot
  • Inversions, such as u and n
  • Transpositions, such as felt and left
  • Substitutions, such as house and home
  • Reading isolated single words
  • Connecting letters to sounds
  • Learning to tell time
  • Planning

    Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
    Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  • Confusing small words like at/to or does/goes
  • Remembering facts
  • Learning new skills
  • Relying too much on memorization without comprehension
  • Impulsivity

Middle School – Difficulties with:

  • Finishing homework that requires reading in a timely manner
  • Reading in front of class
  • Stammering
  • Replacing similar sounding words despite different meanings, such as distinct and extinct
  • Spelling, grammar, and punctuation
  • Expressing ideas in an organized fashion

High School – Difficulties with:

  • Not understanding puns or hidden meanings
  • Not understanding punch lines to jokes
  • Arguing a point, not being able to support an argument
  • Getting to the point of a story or argument
  • Trouble reading charts and graphs
  • Confusing left and right

 

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If children who have dyslexia are not treated within the first few years of development (up until Kindergarten or first grade), they will see significantly more problems in learning to read grade level appropriate material throughout their life. In fact, 74% of children who read poorly in the third grade remain poor readers until ninth grade.

Neurofeedback trains the brain to work efficiently, improving executive functions and other necessary skills needed to read and comprehend material. If you suspect your child may have a reading disability such as dyslexia, call the office to schedule a free consultation with director Dr. Jolene Ross (781-444-9115). The sooner a person is able to overcome a learning disability, the more success a person will see throughout their lives!

Amblyopia – Eye Turn and Neurofeedback

by Dr. Jolene Ross

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Jessica’s* eye turns way out to the side”, her mother told me.  “She is supposed to have surgery for it in a couple of months.” Jessica’s mother looked very nervous, but believed that surgery was the only possible solution for this problem.

“Give me a little time.” I replied. Her mother looked at me with a look of confusion and surprise.

“Well, when we do our QEEG’s (electronic EEG’s), we typically see the signature for this.  The brain runs the eyes and controls the eye muscles. So, with neurofeedback, we have been able to bring a wandering eye in and properly under control.”

This was particularly important for Jessica, because with impaired vision, she did not have a learning channel and was really struggling in school. With eye turn, the eyes do not work together, making reading much slower and much harder. Since vision often uses more of the brain’s resources than any other function, the brain must put a great deal of effort into vision during reading, much more when there is eye turn. That means much less of the resources will go into reading comprehension, which, in these cases, is typically low. With poor reading comprehension and greater effort required for reading, most children with eye turn avoid reading whenever possible and do not become recreational readers.

 

What is wandering eye?  What are treatment options?  Why would we want to use neurofeedback to treat this condition?

Also called Strabismus amblyopia, unequal alignment of the eyes

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Turn in – Esotropia, cross eyed

Turn out – Exotropia, wall eyed

Surgery for unequal alignment shortens the muscle to cosmetically straighten the eye, but this may not improve vision in the amblyopic eye. However, eyes often go back to being misaligned after surgery. There is a 30% to 80% success rate. Early intervention during the critical period when vision is developing further acuity can be beneficial, but only if the outcome is perfect. If not, the eyes will not work as a binocular team. Perfect means the eyes must be perfectly aligned and suppression (ignoring input from one eye) should no longer happen. If the surgery is not perfect the patient may continue to experience suppression, or the patient may see double.

Here at Advanced Neurotherapy, I have seen a number of children with eye turn. Eyes work together, which is known as binocular vision.  Binocular vision produces depth perception, and when depth perception improves clumsiness is reduced. Children stop bumping into furniture, tripping over things and bumping into other people. Given that we see the signatures on our QEEG’s, we can develop neurofeedback treatment protocol to address this problem.  In most cases, we can bring the eye in so that binocular vision is established, dramatically improving the function of the eyes in general, not just during reading.

 

Does the effect of this eye turn correction last

Image courtesy of Mister GC at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Mister GC at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I had the occasion to meet one of my eye turn clients eleven years after neurofeedback. He was doing intensive neurofeedback therapy, which means he was having sessions daily.  It was summer and he was taking sailing lessons in the morning. He stopped going to sailing lessons for a week. His mother explained that he could not go sailing because he had gotten very dizzy while sailing. By the end of the week, the dizziness had resolved and his eye was very close to being normally aligned, an improvement of approximately 30 degrees. Eleven years later, when I met him again, he was about to transfer to a very competitive college. He was a very good student, highly motivated, and quite a reader.

As for Jessica, she was not an auditory learner and, with eye turn, she was not a visual learner either, making learning a very serious challenge. By the end of her neurofeedback treatment, her eye was aligned, surgery had been averted, and she had a visual learning channel, which meant her grades went up in school. With the addition of improvements in her auditory processing capacity resulting from neurofeedback, she was much more able to learn through listening as well. We are very proud of how well Jessica has used her enhanced learning capacity.

 

*Names have been changed to protect patient privacy

Math Difficulties and Neurofeedback

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For many children, getting through math classes and homework assignments is a daily struggle. No matter how hard the child tries to study, math still does not come easily. Many adults deal with the same issue. Despite years of math classes and exams in the past, many adults still have difficulty doing basic math problems, which can affect day-to-day life and create feelings of embarrassment. These difficulties may be due to a learning disability called dyscalculia, a brain-based condition where a person has trouble processing numbers and math-related concepts. Dyscalculia is not as widely discussed as other learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, however dyscalculia may be just as common with an estimated 6%-7% of elementary school children affected. Dyscalculia has many different probable causes, including genetics, brain development, birth-related issues, and/or brain injury.

Did you know that neurofeedback helps improve brain function for those who have difficulties with mathematics? A quantitative EEG is taken of the patient that shows exactly where the brain is having trouble processing mathematical information, and targets these areas during neurofeedback sessions. Typically, the frontal lobes need to be functioning well in cooperation with both sides of the brain, as altogether they are responsible for working memory and concept development, which is crucial for math solving ability.

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

At Advanced Neurotherapy, Dr. Jolene Ross asks her patients to complete math problems during the quantitative EEG session to see how the brain functions while processing mathematical information. Dr. Ross can then target where the brain is having the difficulties. With this information, she is able to develop protocol for the neurofeedback sessions to target and improve brain function.

Patients find mathematical concepts and applications become much easier after completing neurofeedback. For students, this means significant grade improvement with math homework, exams, and class work. Neurofeedback proves exceptionally useful when preparing for SAT’s or other standardized testing. Additionally, neurofeedback is known for helping improve executive functioning, including memory, focus, and task management, which positively affects grades as well.

 

Schedule a free consultation with Dr. Ross today by calling the office at 781-444-9115.

Reading Problems and Neurofeedback – By Dr. Jolene Ross

Dr. Jolene Ross - Director of Advanced Neurotherapy
Dr. Jolene Ross – Director of Advanced Neurotherapy

I discovered the power of neurofeedback for reading problems very early. My daughter Lee had reading problems and hated to read. In elementary school, when it was time for that fifteen or twenty minutes of silent reading we all had our children do after they completed their homework, she would scream as if she was being beaten! At that time, she was still reading little kids books, but the first Harry Potter book had come out. I would set her up for her neurofeedback session and say to her, “Now put the book away.” and she would dutifully stuff it between the chair and her leg. I would leave the room to tend to another person and, unbeknownst to me, she would pick up the book and read while she was doing neurofeedback. She became a little “reading monster” and we nicknamed her “Nose In a Book”. She even read The Odyssey for pleasure.

That is how I figured out that reading during neurofeedback could be very effective. What happens when a person reads while doing neurofeedback is their brain is being rewarded for engagement and for improved function in the very areas that are needed for effective decoding, reading, comprehension, memory storage, and retrieval.  As a result of this experience with my daughter, I learned that having people read while doing neurofeedback is a very effective way of improving reading.

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the boys I have worked with also hated to read. It was summer and the usual pattern was for mom to nag him about his summer reading and force him to read. He would choose the shortest possible books on the summer reading list. After some neurofeedback, shockingly, he cleaned his room one day, all by himself without being told, and got it all organized. He also decided that he was going to read THIRTY books for the summer. He was in fourth grade at the time. As the summer went on he kept racking up those books. By the end of the summer he had indeed read thirty books. He got the award for the most books read in his class.

I had a nine year old girl with a diagnosis of dyslexia. Over the course of her neurofeedback treatment, she lost her dyslexia diagnosis. That means she no longer qualified for a diagnosis of dyslexia because her dyslexia symptoms disappeared.

Reading, especially reading comprehension, are typical goals set by parents for their children and by adults for themselves. Neurofeedback typically results in a 50 to 80 per cent improvement in reading and reading comprehension.  Reading speed also improves along with processing speed in general.

In my experience, there are three possible QEEG signatures for reading problems.  One shows problems in the left central area, which is an important location in the language pathway and is an important language center.  This signature is consistent with language based learning disabilities and dyslexia.  Another signature shows problems in the back of the brain, areas called the parietal (the top of the back) and occipital,(the very back). Deficiencies in these areas are typically associated with functional vision problems, such as tracking, convergence, and acuity.

Image courtesy of Phaitoon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Phaitoon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Vision trumps everything in the brain. If there is a problem with vision, it will not only be more difficult to read, but it will be difficult for the brain to perform all of the other processing tasks necessary for vision based learning including attention, focus, storage, retrieval, and comprehension.

I was recently talking to a Behavioral Optometrist I have known for many years. When he sees my clients, he tells them to come back when they have completed their neurofeedback training because “neurofeedback often corrects the functional vision problems.”

To be a truly good reader, it is also necessary for the frontal lobes to be working at their best. Frontal lobes are where executive functions, higher order thinking, and memory reside, and therefore are important in interpreting the meaning and nuances of what is being read.

 

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ADD/ ADHD: Improving Function Through Neurofeedback

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Studies have shown that between 4%-5% of American adults have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD and 11% of American children.  Symptoms of ADD/ADHD include trouble focusing, restlessness, excessive and impulsive speech, difficulty with patience, and forgetfulness. The causes of ADHD come from dysfunctional brain activity, which occurs mostly in the frontal lobes and central cortex. Shown by EEGs, brainwaves of children with ADHD have much higher rates of abnormalities in the brainwaves and displayed an excess of slow waves and less of the fast waves by comparison to a child without ADHD. Neurofeedback offers children and adults with ADHD the help needed by directly retraining the brain to function more effectively and eliminate the symptoms of ADHD.

In 1984, as neurotherapy became more researched as a method of treating neurophysiological issues, Joel and Judith Lubar conducted an experiment to find out if neurotherapy could correct ADHD.  They studied six young males, ages ten to nineteen, diagnosed with ADHD and they combined the treatment with academic work in subjects such as math and reading. All of the young men showed improvement in their brain function. The EEG showed increases in their SMR and decreases in their slow wave activity.  Additionally, all of this was accomplished without the use of medications. This demonstrated that neurotherapy is an effective treatment for ADHD,  and it opened the doors to the investigation of neurotherapy as a treatment for other learning difficulties.

By November of 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics approved biofeedback and neurofeedback as a Level 1 option (or best option) for children with ADHD. Over a thousand clinical reports and various studies have shown obvious improvement in patients with ADD/ADHD including better attention span, less impulsivity, less hyperactivity, and better ability to process information. Children have shown a substantial decrease in unfavorable behavior such disruptive actions, fidgeting, and resistance to elders or other authority figures. There have even been reports of increased IQ scores after neurotherapy treatment.  Most impressively, all of this progress was accomplished without the use of medications.

Neurotherapy teaches the brain to function at its best possible ability by investigating the root of the problem and equipping the brain with the skills to do this naturally.  In the case of ADD and ADHD, it teaches the brain how to be alert and focused when it needs to be. At Advanced Neurotherapy, major improvements have been observed in children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. Parents have noticed children functioning better in school, as they are able to maintain organization, focus better, and create higher quality work for their classes by themselves, which additionally displays growing a child’s developing independence. Parents often report their children to be more conversational, better listeners, and able to express themselves more clearly. Adults with ADD/ADHD have reported increased energy, focus, productivity, and success in their work. Often times, the self esteem of those with ADD/ADHD rises as they feel able to accomplish their goals quickly and effectively, which in turn makes them more confident and happier. Neurofeedback subtly makes people more aware of how their brain responds to stimuli and teaches people how to improve function of the frontal lobes, which is the root of executive functioning.