In 2004, my 11 year old, high-functioning autistic child, B, was not doing well. He was on the best medications known to help his symptoms, including the anti-psychotic Risperdal, a stimulant amphetamine, and an SSRI anti-depressant. He was receiving special education, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and social skills therapy. However, he still lived in constant anxiety and fear. Sounds were too loud or annoying, Physical contact was irritating. Being around other people was so stressful that it caused him to either disappear into his own world or have hours-long meltdowns. He was getting into physical altercations with fellow students, as well as hitting, kicking, and biting his teachers and aides. At home, he seemed content only when he was playing with a video game or alone in his room. He had already been asked to leave 2 previous schools, and it looked like it was going to happen again.
We conferred with his doctors and therapists, but we had already tried every alternative medication at the highest doses and exhausted each therapists’ toolkit. As we were leaving a conference with his social skills therapist, she looked at us with obvious discomfort as she explained that she had had a previous client who tried this “crazy” thing called EEG neurofeedback and it had really made a positive difference. She looked sheepish as she felt that she could only suggest it because she knew how desperate we were.
We contacted the EEG neurofeedback therapist and set up a course of therapy. We were gratified that B was at least cooperative, but discouraged by his initial reaction to the neurotherapy. He would fall asleep during the session and then sleep for an hour or so afterwards. This went on for about 10 sessions when we suddenly realized that B had gone an entire day without having a temper tantrum or meltdown. Soon these days of relative calmness became frequent, and daily messages from school about behavioral problems almost disappeared.
We were so encouraged that I went for training as an EEG neurofeedback therapist to the EEG Institute in Woodland Hills, California. There, Sue and Siegfried Othmer taught me the basics of therapy, helped me obtain the proper equipment, and offered on-going support. B continued receiving home therapy several times a week. Further progress was slow–apparent only over months. But the child who could barely write a sentence learned to write competent paragraphs within a couple of years. Some friendships were being formed.
B’s abilities grew even greater as we added biomedical protocols that I learned about at DAN (Defeat Autism Now) conferences. For instance, eliminating casein, the protein in milk, from his diet suppressed “stimming” and hyperactive behavior. Yeast control measures helped with digestive function and helped clear his skin rashes. Neurotherapy continued for several years as B went through hundreds of sessions, and EEG neurofeedback equipment and protocols improved.
B entered high school with most of his classes still considered special education and in special classrooms. However, testing now showed an average IQ even though other testing shows some persistent weaknesses in some of his academic abilities. By the time B reached his senior year, he had moved into all regular classes except for his AP Psychology class. He took the AP exam and scored a 4/5. His special education teachers in their final parent conference with us proudly told us that they had never seen a autistic student make the positive changes that they had seen in B, and that he was the first autistic child that they knew of to graduate with a regular diploma. B is now a regular student at a major university where he has been on the Dean’s list each semester except his first. He has studied abroad on an academic program. He has a wide circle of friends and participates regularly in sports.
I got into the practice of neurofeedback and integrative medicine when the parents of other special needs children asked me what I was doing that made such remarkable changes in B. I had retired from family medicine to help care for B several years earlier, but since he was beginning to do better, I had enough time to offer treatment to others. My practice was started.