Controversial ADHD treatment is alternative to medication, family swears by it

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DENVER -- Nearly one in ten school-age kids are now diagnosed with ADHD, and many families rely on prescription medication for treatment.

But there are alternatives, and one of those is something called bio-feedback.  It’s a bizarre looking process, and it’s controversial, but some Colorado families swear by it.

Trey Whitehead’s family is one of them. The 12-year-old from Centennial says he had a hard time focusing and getting school work done. “I was kind of rowdy. I just couldn’t talk to people I was looking all over the place and stuff,” Trey said.

His father, Brad, says Trey seemed to struggle with hyperactivity, but not anymore.

His parents took him to Pristine Health in Greenwood Village where he got a brain map, and then started a rather odd looking treatment called EEG NeuroIntegration.

with electrodes on his head to monitor brain activity, he wears special glasses and watches a movie. The movie brightness changes, and he sees flickering lights.

Diana Alba, a naturopath at Pristine Health, says NeuroIntegration is a form of bio-feedback. “What he experiences as a flickering of the glasses, it’s called photic stimulation which helps train abnormal brain wave patterns into a smooth rhythm.  He's also experiencing changes in volume,” Alba said.

She believes the alternative to medication works well for her patients. “We can train down hyper brain waves, and we can train up abnormally slow brain waves," she said.  Trey agrees. “It’s a great thing. It helps me a lot.” Trey says he can now sit and focus, and is doing very well in school.

His father couldn’t be happier with the results. “It was the best decision that we ever made. It’s completely changed the child,” Brad said.

The father was so impressed, he decided to give it a try himself, since he’s battled the same kind of issues his whole life. “I feel so good, I can’t begin to tell you, and I’m as calm as I’ve ever been,” Brad said.

But that calm comes with a price. Each session costs about $100, and the American Academy of Pediatrics says this is not a proven treatment.

“Neurofeedback is a somewhat controversial and new treatment for ADHD and at this point the American Academy of Pediatrics does not feel comfortable recommending it to families as a first line treatment,” said Dr. Andrew Adesman, a developmental pediatrician at the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York.

He believes parents should be cautious. “It’s an expensive intervention. It takes typically 40 weeks, thousands of dollars, not often covered by insurance, and at this point we just don’t have enough evidence to support it,” Dr. Adesman said.

There may be skeptics, but the Whitehead family, and others, say this treatment has changed their lives for the better.

At Pristine Health, neurofeedback is also used to treat other issues like anxiety, migraines and strokes, but it is many times not covered by insurance. Talk to your doctor to see what treatment is right for you.

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