Neurofeedback for ADHD: AAP’s Biofeedback Report a Game Changer?Alex Theoret
Neurofeedback and excitement aren’t generally discussed in the same sentence. The professional neurofeedback community tends to be a pretty cerebral bunch (no pun intended) and mostly impervious to hyperbole. And clients/end-users generally turned to EEG biofeedback in the first place for stress reduction and calm – basically the opposite of excitement. But the American Academy of Pediatrics recent report that mentions biofeedback has caused quite the stir among growing legions of neurofeedback users and the cognitive cognoscenti.
In case you missed it, a November 2012 AAP report* chart lists biofeedback as a Level One or “Best Support” treatment for children suffering from ADHD. Even more stunning was the fact that the Academy gave a big “thumbs up”. Their tacit claim seems to be that biofeedback is just as effective for treating ADHD as pharmaceutical drugs. That ought to shake the rafters of some Big Pharma factories. For as much faith (and money) as our society has invested in pharmaceutical ‘miracle’ drugs, it’s somewhat astonishing that a professional organization as respected as the AAP could get behind a non-invasive, naturopathic alternative like neurofeedback so whole-heartedly.
But what’s even more interesting are the potential consequences the AAP’s endorsement may hold for the future of eeg biofeedback, a.k.a. neurofeedback for ADHD. Consider:
-ADHD diagnoses are up 66% in recent years. It follows that, in the near future, individuals seeking relief from focus and concentration problems will inevitably rise, causing the number of neurofeedback users to proportionately increase. More biofeedback devotees will steer brain training even more into the mainstream.
-It is estimated that 2 million children in the U.S. suffer from ADHD. That’s 3-7% of all school age children. But in some states, the number of children with ADHD is as high as 15%. ADHD is recognized as an impairment to learning and often entitles affected children to additional special education services. States with high numbers of ADHD children will be cornered into making some tough choices in their current constricted budgetary environments. Do they hire occupational therapists, mental health professionals or additional teachers to service these children? Or do they invest in neurofeedback or EEG biofeedback systems for a fraction of the cost of new personnel?
-Latest trends indicate that ADHD diagnoses in older children are growing faster than younger children. As this trend inevitably expands into late teens/early adulthood, will the AAP have to extend its endorsement of biofeedback to account for these older children? And if that happens, how long will it be before neurofeedback or biofeedback is endorsed for Adult ADHD?
-And then there’s the billion dollar question: will the current AAP endorsement and growing acknowledgement of EEG biofeedback’s effectiveness force health insurance companies to cover it as legitimate treatment for ADHD? In this case, insurance companies’ market incentives may work in the consumer’s favor. Neurofeedback sessions are typically not cheap, but in the long run could be much less expensive than prescription drug coverage.
-Given the potential growth of neurofeedback that could follow from the AAP’s report, will the FDA have to take a closer look at neurofeedback as a safe, efficacious alternative for treating ADHD? And if that happens, does it not open the door to broader acceptance of biofeedback for addressing more issues beyond just ADHD?
Whatever the outcome, it’s hard to imagine any negative after-effects emerging from the AAP’s report that includes biofeedback. Kids win. Parents win. Even teachers win. And who can complain about that?
*American Academy of Pediatrics report: EVIDENCE-BASED CHILD AND ADOLESCENT PSYCHOSOCIAL INTERVENTIONS, released November 2012