{a mom’s} search for the {adhd} magic bullet: part 3,694,232

I just finished reading a review copy of a great book that is being released today, October 5th: Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention by Katherine Ellison. Ellison dedicated a full year to focusing her attention on ADHD, in an effort to reconnect with, understand, and help her son Buzz, as well as herself, deal with the condition. The book chronicles their experiences throughout that year. It’s a great read. I recommend it.

While it’s only one aspect of the story, a significant portion of the book details Ellison’s foray into the treatment of ADHD with neurofeedback. I’d read about neurofeedback before, but didn’t know much about it. Ellison’s account of the treatment really got me thinking; got me excited. Off I went on a mission: to the library for books about neurofeedback, to the Internet to search for neurofeedback practitioners in Iowa, to email our psychologist to ask if he thought neurofeedback would be helpful to Natalie.

Neurofeedback. Neurofeedback. Neurofeedback. Neurofeedback became my latest obsession in my ongoing quest for the magic bullet; the treatment that would work miracles and banish all of Natalie’s problems.
Of course, I know better. As I research the endless books, gadgets, therapies, supplements, tips and tricks, and treatments for ADHD and its common comorbid conditions, I know there are no miracles; no cure (although medication has brought nearly-miraculous results.) But I hope there are tools and strategies, and yes, therapies that will make a difference; take the edge off, help Natalie cope, give her skills to make life a little easier, to help her reach her goals.
A thoughtful, carefully worded reply came from our psychologist. I called off this particular mission.
Then…the next magic bullet whizzed right into my mailbox! Last week, I got a flier in the mail advertising that Learning Rx is opening a center just 30 miles away in Ankeny, Iowa. To the Internet I go, to check out their website. Oh, they do cognitive skills training. Wow, that looks a lot like the testing and exercises Nat did in occupational therapy. Auditory processing—there’s a term that catches my attention. We have to try this!
I emailed a request to schedule a tour.
I know, I know. I’m doing it again. But this approach makes so much sense! Then again, at first glance they all do.
One of the perks of being a blogger is that marketing-types sometimes offer me free samples of their ADHD product du jour—book, or gadget—in hopes that I’ll write a positive review. I love to write about books and products, and I love to give away freebies through my ADDitudeMag.com ADHD parenting blog. I run a giveaway contest monthly.
Now, books are one thing. I don’t think twice about recommending a book I enjoyed. But, I don’t want to be a product-pusher. I don’t want to set other moms off on a quest for the magic bullet that might waste their time, energy, and money. So why write about these products, and why give them away?
They may not help everyone; they may not even have helped Natalie. But they all have helped someone. They may not be cures, but they are tools, and we can all use more of those. We—I—just need to keep our (my) expectations in line; our (my) head(s) on straight.
For me, that means:
1. checking with Natalie’s pediatrician, psychologist, or psychiatrist before investing too much time or energy—or any money– in my latest discovery.
2. reminding myself that if it really worked, nearly everyone would be doing it. If it isn’t a first-line treatment option, I need to approach with caution.
3. I need to carefully weigh the product or program’s cost in money, time and effort (sometimes time and effort trump money) against the potential benefits.
So, don’t look at my product reviews as endorsements, but rather as information about options. Then, before buying, apply your own set of decision-making filters.
Good luck if you enter my contests! And, good luck keeping your expectations realistic.
I wish I could.
MotivAider Helps ADHD Students Stay Focused…
And You Can Win one! Enter here!

Kay Marner, a mother of two, is a freelance writer specializing in ADHD and adoption. Read her ADHD parenting blog, “My Picture Perfect Family” to see how she’s coping with life in the parenting fast lane!

Kay Marner is the co-editor of the book “Easy to Love but Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories.” Marner is a frequent contributor to ADDitude magazine, and writes an ADHD parenting blog, “My Picture-Perfect Family,” for ADDitudeMag.com.

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ADHD medication, General ADHD, Kay Marner, learning disabilities, parenting/FAMILY, treatment ·

About the author

Kay Marner is the co-editor of the book "Easy to Love but Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories." Marner is a frequent contributor to ADDitude magazine, and writes an ADHD parenting blog, "My Picture-Perfect Family," for ADDitudeMag.com.


  1. I tell myself the same thing, “if it were a sure-fire answer for ADHD or even a consistently-helpful tool for ADHD, everyone would be using it.” I too want to try EVERYTHING! We have tried a lot, I have many gadgets (and would have more if money weren't so tight) and Luke has completed Interactive Metronome therapy and Tomatis Therapy. I do feel like Tomatis has made a difference for Luke, but it's hard to say all his improvements over the last few months are attributable to that one thing when we've also tweaked meds a little and I see him maturing a tiny bit too.

    Here's hoping someone really does discover a “magic bullet” someday!

  2. keith says:

    I am curious about what helped you decide not to try the neurofeedback?? I was sceptical about it but after talking to someone who had tried it(Suzanne Davies – we went to high school together) with some grand success I decided to give it a shot. Yes, my son's doctor's gave me warnings about scams and (their) lack of info regarding any “real supportive evidence” in favor of it but, knowing it would not cause harm, I decided to go ahead (do some research on certified & recommended providers, etc.) and try it. Well, although it isn't a magic bullet (as much as I would have loved that – aren't we all looking for that answer that makes life easier for our children and families), it did make some serious changes in my son. I will add that I know it doesn't help everyone who tries it, but I am very glad we took that chance. My son is ten and he has inattentive type ADHD. He used to miss a whole lot of what was going on in school (and school is still a challenge) but some remarkable things have come out of the neurofeedback – he asks (nearly everyday) what this or that means – he used to be so inattentive that he often missed vocab that I knew he should know at his age – even when reading (which was nearly impossible to get him to do) he wouldn't ask if there was something he didn't know – just skip over it and then not really comprehend what he had read. Also, it became MUCH easier to get him to read – and his comprehension has dramatically increased. There were benefits that I just wouldn't have expected – he plays with his little sister more and takes more of an interest in what her and her friends are doing – he used to be so tuned out that he mostly did his own thing and didn't too often notice others. He is now much more tuned in and shows more of a “mature” outlook on things in general. Our original goal was to help ease school stuff (as most other things we were just used to as a family – it was just “him” if you know what I mean). So, all the other stuff was a huge bonus. School – well that is another story – I think he needs a new one – they (the school) seem to believe that his current issue (he has a really hard time getting thoughts from head onto paper – but is great at verbally communicating them) is a matter of motivation – they just don't get it and this has been an issue for years. Ughh….on we march:0)

    I think that there are more benefits to be seen with continued neurofeedback but that remains to be seen. For now – I am VERY pleased with the results and wouldn't steer anyone away from it if they could possibly try it. Warnings I received – do you research on the provider to avoid a scam – they are out there so you need to be careful…

  3. Kay Marner says:

    Now, there you go getting me interested again! Our psychologist didn't say anything specific, just the same thing he says every time I ask him about something new–he tells me what he knows about the research, cost, etc., and if he's had other clients try it over the years, what kind of results they've seen. He didn't say not to do it, just to think it through.

  4. My son's experience with Neurofeedback was nothing short of amazing. Keep in mind he is Autistic, but 90% of autistics also have ADHD and he is one of them. After the first session he began doing some independent work at school which was stunning. He started speaking in sentences (he was 7) and began pretend play sequences.

    What we didn't expect is that his severe auditory processing issues reduced to next to nothing. We even did Berard AIT in the past, which worked, but only lasted a month. What biofeedback did has stuck.

    A friend of mine whose ADHD inattentive type (8) is also having dramatic experience with Neurofeedback. Another friends ADHD hyperactive type son, also 8, saw no benefit. Just like anything else some kids it will help, others it will not….and just like anything else, how to tell which category your child would fall is anyone's guess.

    If anyone does consider biofeedback I cannot stress the importance of making sure the provider has adequate credentials, as many people do biofeedback without them.
    This credentially org has a list of qualified providers:

    My best wishes to you. I can totally relate to the quest for the magic bullet, as a person with ADHD and the mother of a child with autism.

  5. @Autism Mom Rising – you answered the question I had when I read this – how do you find someone who actually knows what they're doing and not just someone who SAYS they know what they're doing? Thanks!

  6. Julia L. says:

    I am new to your blog and am so thankful I've found it. Thank you for sharing so much wonderful information, insight, emotions!

    I have been lurking for a couple of weeks now and have decided to post a reply to this thread because it touched on a very current issue for me. I have a 10 year old son with ADHD and sensory integration issues (and a neuro-typical 6 year old son).

    Over the years I have spent tens of thousands of dollars and countless hours (weeks, months, years) test driving many “magic bullets.” And all of this mostly to avoid placing him on medication. Neurofeedback training is just one of many therapies that we've experienced. I too had heard it worked wonders for others and diligently researched it before taking the plunge. After attending many sessions (and losing $1300) at a place that we felt was a scam, we didn't give up, and attended more training with one of the founders of this process – the Othmer Foundation/EEG Institute in California. While the people there were wonderful – and we did see some improvements in his anxiety levels – his impulsivity and hyperactivity did not change much at all. So we decided to move on – it was becoming terribly expensive and the drive to the center was at least an hour each way in Los Angeles traffic, 2-3 times a week.

    Recently, I think we've finally come to a place where we are willing to try meds. Partly because he is older and I feel that he will be able to tolerate the side effects a bit better now, but mostly because I feel like we would be doing a disservice to him if we didn't try them. But I also think that what's different now than before, is that I am coming to an acceptance that there may never be any “one” thing – that it just may be a combination of different things, at different times.

    I feel rather calm this time around – doing my research, talking to our psychologist, doctors, other mothers, (reading your blogs). I don't have that false rush of anticipation that I used to get when starting something new. This time I am just hoping that when we do get to the point where we begin the med trials, that we find something that he can tolerate – something that just might help his day be a little more manageable for him. I guess that, in and of itself, would be a wonderously magic bullet.

  7. Kay Marner says:

    So glad you've joined the discussion, Julia! Love your comments.

  8. Thanks for your thoughtful blog. I am a neurofeedback practitioner and would like to stress the importance of practitioner qualifications. I will post some things here on this topic from my website that you might find useful.
    You should always ask to see a copy of a clinical (not business) license before allowing providers to make decisions about your child’s brain.
    If you are seeking help with a mental health condition such as ADHD, anxiety or depression, you will want to make sure your neurotherapy provider has a LICENSE in a mental health field (psychologist, counselor or social worker). BCIA certification is nice but only as an additional certification for someone already holding a professional license for independent practice.

    If neurofeedback providers are not licensed and are rendering clinical evaluations, interpreting test results or setting protocols for a medical or mental health issue, they may be operating illegally and unsafely.

    Questions to Ask Your Neurotherapy Provider:

    1. What type of License do you have that qualifies you to work with my condition? If you do not have a license, is there someone on the premises at all times supervising you who does? Is this person fully trained and experienced in neurotherapy?

    2. How long have you been doing neurotherapy?

    3. How many clients have you seen in your neurotherapy career? In a typical day or week?

    4. What type of conditions do you typically work with?

    5. Do you utilize a wide range of equipment and protocols to offer an individualized approach or do you offer a one-size-fits all approach with only one or two types of interventions?

    6. Do you keep up with the latest developments in the field by receiving regular training and professional development in a variety of neurotherapy interventions and approaches? Are these trainings accredited and if so, by what accreditation body? (preferably, these events should be accredited by one’s professional association such as The American Psychological Association and/or by the Biofeedback Certification of America).

    Hope this helps! Deborah Stokes, PhD, BCIA-EEG

  9. Penny – I think Deborah's comment would make a great weekend blog post, especially considering the questions we all have regarding neurofeedback.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Homeopathic medication really is a healthy kind of therapeutic!
    [url=http://www.homeopathicdoctors.org/]homeopathy jobs[/url]


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