Learning Disabilities and Neurofeedback

Did you know that more children are affected by learning disabilities (LD) than are diagnosed with ADHD?
  • 2.4 million students are diagnosed with learning disabilities . This represents 41% of all students receiving special education services.*
  • 75% – 80% of special education students identified as LD have their basic deficits in language and reading***
  • 60% of adults with severe literacy problems have undetected or untreated learning disabilities**

Most frequently displayed symptoms of LD:

  • Short attention span
  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Inability to discriminate between/among letters, numerals, or sounds
  • Poor reading and/or writing ability
  • Eye-hand coordination problems; poorly coordinated
  • Difficulties with sequencing
  • Disorganization and other sensory difficulties
  • Delayed speech development; immature speech

For many years, no one really knew how to deal with learning, because experts were unable to pinpoint its cause. Most educators simply ended up trying different methods of teaching, and some would give up and write these children off as slow or unworthy of the extra attention, or conclude that they weren’t trying hard enough. Now, however, there is a helpful tool for children with learning disabilities–a therapy known as neurofeedback.

What is Neurofeedback Training?

Neurofeedback Training is a simple, painless, drugless and non-invasive therapy. It trains the EEG or brainwaves using operant conditioning. Operant conditioning uses auditory and visual feedback to reward the brainwaves when they change in the desired direction to improve the Learning Disability. An individual learns to control his own brainwaves through the help of visual and auditory feedback.

Neurofeedback training is simple, painless, drugless, non-invasive and
virtually has no harmful side effects.

How does Neurofeedback work?

Neurofeedback is a way to quantify and train brain activity.
The basic principles of how neurofeedback works are deceptively simple.

Communication between groups of cells in the brain generates thoughts, sensations, actions and emotions. This activity is detectable in the form of brainwaves – electrical impulses generated by your brain activity.

During a neurofeedback session, electrodes detect your brainwaves to see your brain in action. Through operant conditioning, sounds and images on a computer tell you immediately when your brain reaches your goal and when not.

Through this simple method, you learn how to increase connectivity in the brain that is associated with a learning disability. Much like physical exercises strengthen and develop specific muscles, the more your neuropathways are trained the easier it will be for you to process information, read, do math and understand conversations, or communicate clearly what you think. You will have greater efficiency in your brain.

How does Neurofeedback help with Learning Disabilities?

Neurofeedback can actually improve learning skills by training the areas of the brain relevant to learning or execution skills such as math, reading, and auditory and visual processing.

How do we decide what needs to change?

A thorough assessment is done to determine what the difficulties a person is experiencing along with the history of the problem, family history, and an assessment of brain functioning. A quantitative EEG (QEEG) is performed to collect data under different conditions, eyes closed, eyes open, reading and doing a performance task. We look at the results of the way the brainwaves are working, and we run the results against a normed data base that is the same as the person’s age, gender and handedness. We determine a direction for treatment based on the symptoms of the individual and the quantitative electroencephalogram (QEEG).

How long does it take?

The length of neurofeedback training sessions always depends on the condition, age and health of the patient as well as any other health conditions that are present and need supportive treatment. We find that an average number of sessions to get a significant change to occur are around 20-30 sessions. However, rarely does a case resolve completely in that few sessions. It usually takes around 40 to get the best results. Individuals that have other health concerns need to recognize that Neurofeedback alone cannot do everything and there needs to be a comprehensive understanding and treatment of the overall health problems.

How often can a person do a Neurofeedback session?

A person can get a neurofeedback session as much as twice a day with at least a two-hour break in between. It is recommended that a person try to do neurofeedback at least two or three times a week until the sessions are completed. Results appear to solidify and happen faster when done more frequently. If a person is going off medication it is helpful to do neurofeedback in this way to help with the transition and chemical adjustment in the body. When a person speeds up their treatment they get the results and life changes quicker.

* National Center for Education Statistics
**National Adult Literacy and Learning Disabilities Center
***National Institutes of Health