Thursday, May 16, 2013

It's not his fault

A couple of weeks ago a nurse at the neurofeedback therapist's office put electrodes and goo all over Ryan's head, clipped some wires to his earlobes, and ran a series of five short tests called a brain map. For the first test, Ryan had to sit very still with his eyes closed for three minutes (I had him in a death grip for this) to measure his resting EEG. The nurse measured the electrical activity in various parts of his brain while he rested with eyes open, read a book, counted.

Yesterday I sat down with Dr. Brainly to get the results. Dr. Brainly has never met Ryan - has never seen his face - but you'd never know that from our conversation.

"Ryan's resting EEG shows more activity than average. Children with a higher dominant frequency tend to be easily frustrated and hard to calm down, and in the face of stress they have a tendency to show regressive behavior. It's not his fault."

Yes, that sounds like my kid.

"It's not his fault," the doctor emphasized.

I let that sink in.

We always say things like, "Oh, he's just wired differently," but this was my first time opening up the machine and seeing the wires. There they were, firing at 9 Hz instead of the typical 7-8 Hz, demonstrating in a clinical, dispassionate way that there really is something different going on in my kid's head - that he can't help freaking out over things I don't think of as problems.

The doctor moved on to the results of other tests.

"Ryan demonstrated very little focus on reading, and a much greater degree of engagement in math."

Yes. That's what all his teachers would tell you.

Then he became very animated telling me about Ryan's P3 - the area of the brain responsible for staying with a task and finishing things. "Look at this chart! He's three-and-a-half standard deviations outside the norm!"

I have seen the real-world results of this, and it's pretty frustrating.

He talked about "co-modulation" and said Ryan's brain efficiency is low in the area that handles self-awareness. "He's off socially but he doesn't realize he's off," the doctor explained.

Any lingering doubts I had were quickly erased when I saw how much a doctor could tell about Ryan's challenges just by looking at his EEG. So in a few weeks, Ryan will begin a three-month-long course of neurofeedback therapy, which we hope will change his neurophysiology in a way that reduces some of the behaviors that prevent him from focusing in school or interacting with other kids in a positive way.

This was the first time I left a therapy-related appointment without crying. Walking out the door, I even felt a little hopeful for the first time.

It's not his fault.

It's not my fault.


  1. Awesome and fascinating at the same time. Xoxo.

  2. I am really happy for you and Ryan - it's good to hear "positive" news


Keep it civil, people.