Neurofeedback & Light / Sound Program in the Caldwell, Idaho School District
by L. Jerry Cunningham, Ph.D.
The Caldwell School District initiated a Neurofeedback program in the Fall of 1999. L. Jerry Cunningham, Clinical Psychologist, directs the program.
My experience in the field of biofeedback began with peripheral procedures in research conducted by John and Patty House, M.D. and Ph.D. respectively. The research utilized temperature and muscular training in the treatment of Otologic disorders. The technology was very primitive in those days by comparison, but the results were significant and indicated the power and promise inherent with biofeedback procedures. The author’s more recent experience was obtained with the Othmers at EEG Spectrum. The experience included their comprehensive course in Neurofeedback, their alpha-theta course and a course in peripheral procedures using Thought Technology systems; my experience also including working in the EEG Spectrum Encino (California) Clinic with Sue and Siegfried Othmer. Additionally, the author assisted in the development of a small Neurofeedback program at the Holman Group which is a managed mental health company. During this time Michael Landgraf and myself worked conjointly with several clients and began exploring the possibility of integrating Neurofeedback with light /sound procedures, a binaural beat generator, affirmation tapes, as well as the Syncroenergizer.
The above experience provided the background for initiating the Neurofeedback program in the Caldwell School District. In order to start the program the Caldwell School District purchased the Neurocybernetic System from EEG Spectrum as well as the peripheral software from Thought Technology and the TOVA (Test of Variable of Attention). Our initial goal was to treat Attention Deficit Disordered and Conduct Disordered children and to develop a program that eventually utilized various modalities such as the New Visions program had already done under the direction of John Anderson and Michael Joyce.
The experience with the program throughout the year was both interesting and challenging. It became immediately apparent that the impact of the program on a district-wide basis would be very limited. The limitations were due to our very limited budget and time allotments. One Neurocybernetic system and three days of time allotment for both administration and treatment made the number of students reachable with classic Neurofeedback quite limited. Our first decision was to limit the program to one school out of the nine in the district. This decision in retrospect was a very wise one and further expansion of the program will be on a school-by-school basis rather than district wide.
We also began addressing the question of how to increase the impact of our particular program given the limitation of our budget. Consequently, once again the possibility of interfacing light / sound procedures with Neurofeedback seemed a logical direction. The research by (This free copy of the AVS Journal is courtesy of: www.Mindmachines.com / Published by: Michael Landgraf Enterprises, LLC) Russell and Carter. The Michelette dissertation and clinical research by Ruth Olmstead suggested that light / sound procedures with certain children might be able to accomplish results similar to those obtained by Neurofeedback. Given our interest in exploring this possibility Michael Landgraf donated very generously to the Caldwell School District three Pro Tutor light / sound units, two dual binaural beat generators, a CD with dual binaural beat session tracks and the ADHD light / sound programs developed by Ruth Olmstead.
With these additional devices we began exploring how to utilize them effectively in our program. As a result some students were given a combination of Neurofeedback and light / sound. We utilized open-eye l/s glasses so that the student could receive simultaneously auditory and visual feedback from the Neurofeedback system as well as entrainment from the l/s equipment.
During simultaneous administration we would use l/s frequencies that were compatible with the chosen Neurofeedback frequencies being trained. For example, if we were training within the beta range with a theta inhibitor, we would utilize the 17Hz-Olmstead light / sound program.
The value of the Olmstead ADHD programs is that she has kept the frequency constant throughout the entire program and only the tone pitch is altered. This permits one to train as well as entrain at compatible frequencies. Other children were given light / sound exclusively and others given Neurofeedback one day and light / sound the next. Since we had three light / sound devices we could provide interventions for three students at one time and by this method dramatically increased the number of students we were impacting.
Another observation that was very critical during the year was the student’s interest and motivation to cooperate and participate in either intervention. Students would routinely become bored with Neurofeedback about ten to twelve sessions into the treatment regime. First they wanted to try all of the games that were available on the Neurocybernetic system and after that they wanted new or different or more challenging tasks. With persistence, persuasion and coaxing, one could often get their cooperation for additional times. Light / sound was also difficult to keep their interest past the first six or seven sessions. They were clearly fascinated with the light and pattern displays at first and then they began to get bored. However, when I discovered, with binaural beats, the student’s experience and cooperation changed dramatically. We would use music that they loved as the selections to be utilized during the light / sound sessions.
Many of the students wanted the Disney classics: Lion King, Aladdin, etc.. Some students even loved more classically oriented music. The important issue, however, was the immersion effect that occurred when the music was simultaneously fed into the same headphones that delivered the binaural beats. After this adjustment there was very little resistance to the light / sound procedure. As a matter of fact, students would often come by and beg to have a light / sound session above and beyond their scheduled appointment. It is difficult to describe the shift that occurred with their interest and motivation with just this one adjustment. It was the music- that they loved -that was the changing factor.
During the year several students made very dramatic changes both on the TOVA and a district however, were not as complete as we had hoped. Due to one of our staff being very severely ill and out of the district for six months, the district workload in the Psychology Department at the end of the year made it impossible to do all of the final assessments that we had intended.
However, those that were completed were very encouraging. One case in particular is very interesting and noteworthy. Janice (not real name) was a junior high student with severe behavioral problems, high levels of resistance to the treatment program and yet a normal TOVA. We did SMR training for the first fifteen sessions and she remained resistant and oppositional throughout. However, at that point we changed to Alpha-Theta Neurofeedback and she began to quiet and respond. During the third Neurofeedback session light / sound closed-eye light glasses with the Schulman frequency was added. Within five to six minutes she manifested the classic Alpha- Theta crossover that Penniston suggests is a goal of Neurofeedback treatment. This combination was maintained for the remainder of the school year and each and every session she showed the classic Alpha-Theta crossover. In addition she made very significant clinical gains thereafter. She became very cooperative with therapy, she became pleasant and delightful and her mother stated that she is a changed girl. At the end of the year it was a delight to work with her whereas at the beginning it was painful just to attempt therapeutic intervention.
This next year we will begin to add more therapeutic modalities with our treatment program. Specifically, the author has been impressed with the information regarding the procedure known as Brain Gym. This is a simple procedure to initiate in conjunction with both Neurofeedback and light / sound and also something that teachers can be trained to do with the student in the classroom. Two of the psychology staff members will also complete training in Rapid Eye Therapy and Thought Field Technology. We will explore introducing these two modalities with some of the students in the Fall. Some of the algorhythms of Thought Field Technology can be taught to the students and they may be able to use these to produce “self-calming” and to increase focus and attention.
Clearly, many new and exciting therapeutic interventions are emerging in the mental health field. Some of these interventions appear to have increased effectiveness and treatment time that is shorter than the classical talk-oriented therapies. Our program will continue in the Fall and is one of a very few in the United States that is using both Neurofeedback and light / sound interventions.
Copyright AVS Journal / Michael Landgraf, Publisher and L. Jerry Cunningham, Ph.D., Author. All rights reserved.