NeurOptimal® Neurofeedback Helps the Fostering/Adoption Community
What is NeurOptimal® Neurofeedback Brain Training?
In order to understand how neurofeedback can help a foster child or adoptee, first we need to explain NeurOptimal® Neurofeedback and why we call it brain training. NeurOptimal® Neurofeedback is a nonlinear, dynamical neurofeedback program. NeurOptimal® works as an electrical information detection system, noticing differences in activity. By simply offering the brain this information about what it just did, this neurofeedback system helps the brain notice what it is doing in the present moment. This information allows the brain to organically reorganize itself, activating its own healing wisdom. As a result of this brain training, clients have reported their brain to be flexible and resilient, responding faster naturally.
As the brain and central nervous system together develop flexibility and resilience, this is reported to feel like stability to many clients. This brain training continues with each session until the brain and central nervous system develop the ability to carry that perception of stability across their sessions, and into the future, as the individual learns to maintain this feeling independent of their brain training sessions.
In this post we tell our story of how neurofeedback helped our foster child who we have since adopted. We tell this story in hopes that other people in the fostering and adoption community can find out more about how neurofeedback can help your foster child, adoptee or any child who has had to experience severe trauma.
Our journey with NeurOptimal® began in 2020. Our family began fostering a young boy, who had been through significant trauma, in April 2019. He had been in the foster care system for 4.5 years and had lived in four homes before he moved into ours. He was placed in the foster system in 2016 after his biological mother overdosed and passed away. He was 5 years old. He had experienced neglect, abuse, abandonment, mistrust, separation, and PTSD. He had entered our family of five with this trauma and we all began to experience secondary trauma ourselves.
Feeling Helpless: Wanting to Help Our Foster Child
My husband, Josh, and I did not know how to help our foster son and we did not understand what it felt like to experience the level of events he had in his eight short years of life. We were feeling helpless, hopeless, and inept to parent this child that had so much negativity, hurt and lack of control. Our little family was literally coming apart at the seams. We knew we had to do something. Josh and I began our research.
Childhood Trauma Triggering Fight or Flight Response. What Could Help?
We both started reading about trauma, PTSD, anxiety, ADHD, stress, etc. It was overwhelming to say the least. We were realizing that a lot of what our son was dealing with, was not in his control and to no fault of his own. He had significant behaviors, and given diagnoses, due to the trauma he had experienced. He was literally functioning in a fight or flight response ALL the time. We were learning what a traumatic response can look like and what can trigger someone who has lived through trauma. We also learned that the way we were handling his escalated behaviors and responses, were not the way he needed us to handle them. We learned that his life experiences were greatly affecting his well being, even the ones he had no memory of. Pieces of the puzzle began to be put in place….slowly. We needed to help this little boy….and ourselves.
Two of the books we read, The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van der Kolk, and Healing ADD by Daniel Amen, both gave us a lot of information and understanding of ways we could help our foster son. Some information was telling us that medication was not the answer. That it could actually make some situations worse. Our son was on four medications when he was placed in our home. I researched all of them and began to figure out how to get him off of them so we could actually see what this child was at a baseline level. How were we supposed to help him if he was functioning on the side effects of medication??!!
Was Medication Helping Our Foster Son or Making Things Worse?
Our son was on two meds for ADHD, one prescribed to take daily in the morning, and one prescribed to be given in the afternoon. This was to supposedly help him “get through the day” successfully. A third medication was prescribed to help him sleep at night. Afterall, how was he supposed to sleep when he was given stimulants all day to help him pay attention on an escalated level?? I quickly learned that the medication to help him sleep, Clonidine, was actually a hypertension medication given to adults to help lower blood pressure. This was prescribed to a 45 pound, 8 year old child. The prescribing doctor told us it was ok because he was on the lowest dose. When our son was given this medication, within a 30 min span of time, he began to slur his speech and he would tell us his muscles felt weak and heavy. Surely, this was not to be taken by this young, underweight child, but it made him fall asleep so we were guessing that was all that mattered to doctors and other foster parents that didn’t want to actually help him.
They simply just wanted to pacify him. The fourth medication was a prescription allergy medication. None of his caseworkers could figure out why he was on this for the past year he was taking it. Later, we come to find out that he was put on this medication because for a period of time he lived in a home with cats and he apparently has an allergy to them. We wouldn’t know this because we did not have cats. No one really cared to investigate this until me, and I immediately took him off of this medication. He was off all of the meds by July 2019, three months after he moved in with us. We now had to wait for everything to get out of his system. All of these medications had significant side effects, sometimes being far worse than the actual issue they were attempting to solve.
Research Lead Us to Neurofeedback to Help With Our Foster Child's Trauma
We continued on our research journey to help our family. Both of the above mentioned books began to talk about neurofeedback and how it can help with people who have experienced significant trauma. Of course, it piqued our interest. We had to find out what neurofeedback was and if it could actually help our son. We began to do further research on the internet and we quickly found a NeurOptimal® neurofeedback provider local to us. We decided to check it out.
Trying NeurOptimal®: Non Invasive and Easy for Neurofeedback at Home
Josh and I met with the provider and received a session ourselves. We decided we had nothing to lose in an attempt to help our son. NeurOptimal® neurofeedback was explained to us as a brain training. It can not treat or diagnose a mental health issue, but it can help the brain to reorganize itself. The brain and the central nervous system will begin to sync and regulate each other. In time, the brain will optimize itself to function at its optimal level. NeurOptimal has no negative side effects and is considered non-medical and non-invasive. We were sold! Our son began receiving sessions.
Adoption Process Introduces Escalated Behaviors
During this research and development phase, our family was also moving towards the adoption process. Another layer of trauma for our son in many ways. He was used to moving and changing homes. Although this is dysfunctional, it was his normal. We had to begin preparing him for permanency. It’s a scary thing when you no longer have the ability to leave and your identity is about to change. Our home was the safest, most comforting, most stable home he had ever lived. This huge change was bringing on escalated behaviors.
Was Brain Training Working for Our Son?
As our son began receiving neurofeedback sessions, we were all waiting for things to change. We didn’t really know what to expect and when to expect them. From our understanding of neurofeedback, it was similar to a workout for the brain. At times things may feel good, at other times, things may feel different. Different doesn’t always feel good, but different is good! We initially saw our son show behaviors we had not seen before. At this time, he had been living with us a little over a year. Looking back, we realized that when a person is functioning in a fight or flight response, they have no experience in what it feels like to function at a calm state. He was stealing, lying, hiding things and hording food. This is sometimes typical of foster children, but we had not seen this from our son. Some of his behaviors were dangerous to him and our family. We spoke with the NeurOptimal provider and she explained, as things start to change, it may feel foreign, or uneasy, to the client. They are craving a dopamine release and they will do anything to feel it. She recommended that he keep receiving sessions and things should begin to feel more comfortable to his brain.
As our son began receiving neurofeedback sessions, we were all waiting for things to change. We didn’t really know what to expect and when to expect them. From our understanding of neurofeedback, it was similar to a workout for the brain. At times things may feel good, at other times, things may feel different. Different doesn’t always feel good, but different is good! We initially saw our son show behaviors we had not seen before. At this time, he had been living with us a little over a year. Looking back, we realized that when a person is functioning in a fight or flight response, they have no experience in what it feels like to function at a calm state. He was stealing, lying, and hiding things and food. This is sometimes typical of foster children, but we had not seen this from our son. Some of his behaviors were dangerous to him and our family. We spoke with the NeurOptimal provider and she explained, as things start to change, it may feel foreign, or uneasy, to the client. They are craving a dopamine release and they will do anything to feel it. She recommended that he keep receiving sessions and things should begin to feel more comfortable to his brain.
Imbalance of Dopamine Created an Unhealthy Reward System Response
The brain functions in neural pathways and will always move away from discomfort. Even in dysfunction, the brain will stay in a pattern because it is comforting. So sometimes, a comforting pattern can be dysfunctional. This was exactly what was happening to our son. Dopamine is released when your brain is expecting a reward. When you come to associate a certain activity with pleasure, mere anticipation may be enough to raise dopamine levels. This means, when a person responds with escalated behavior, they will experience a dopamine release. So the escalated, irrational behavior needs to keep happening in order for the individual to experience a dopamine release. Our son needed to learn more healthy ways of feeling “rewarded” without reaching this state of behavior.
Neurofeedback Brain Training Helped Our Son to Control Himself
Neurofeedback began to help our son “even out” and regulate. He learned how to control himself when he wanted to react to a situation. He has now been receiving neurofeedback sessions for almost three years…along with the rest of us. We have been able to regulate more with each other and control ourselves when challenges arise. We now have made it a regular part of our lifestyle and it has become a big part of our business. We want to educate as many people as we are able, to give them another tool to help them in many areas of their lives. NeurOptimal® has been life changing for our family and we want to be able to share it with others.
WHAT THEY SAY...
What do our patients say about the neurofeedback brain training they get from our private practice clinic, Breaking Through Intensive Therapy?