Schools are the Primary Brain Altering Institution.

Education alters brains.  Brain maps show large differences compared with the unschooled.  Schools fulfill their duty by creating complex and sophisticated neural networks inside our children’s heads.  The District is responsible for altering the structure of each student’s brain and brain functioning, in many ways, every day of the week.  This is good.

A school does not need special permission to fulfill it’s mission.  Teaching brain wave control is just like teaching how to learn.  That’s exactly what it is – awareness training to enhance capacity for education.

Neurofeedback is a kind of biofeedback, which is purely learning.  You interact with a display of your psysiology.  The goal is improved awareness leading to greater self-regulation.  That it education.

The District Should Assert the Right to do Neurofeedback.

Here is a principle worth fighting for.  If a physcian does neurofeedback in her office, it is medicine.  If a psychologist does neurofeedback treatement, it is therapy.  If a teacher does neurofeedback in school, then it’s education.

Neurofeedback has been proven to aid reading, listening, speaking and writing, and mathematics in all types of students, especially special needs students.  The “proof of efficacy” is much more substantial than that for any of the other programs the District has already adopted for remedial programs.   If eating at the cafeteria and riding the bus are safe, then neurofeedback is very safe. 

Neurofeedback training can be offered in any classroom, in a practioner’s office, in the student’s home as a stand alone unit, or via the internet anywhere, anytime.  We are dealing with a device that reads 2 millivolts of electricity emanating from a scalp which is then shown on a screen or handheld device.  Retain the right to call neurofeedback an educational toy, to be used at will, and control goes up and costs go way down.

Anyone can now buy EEG machines or neurofeedback devices for $1000 over the internet and EBay.  Just wear, use and improve!  One can also become certified by professional associations.  Teachers can be trained in as little as 2-4 hours of video training with ongoing phone support.

The District is given much room in defining a category and ‘ownership’ of the nature of this ‘intervention’.  If the District could characterize neurofeedback as educational, it would assert the largest freedom in setting the rules because it falls directly under their purview.  And sets an enlightened precedent for others to follow.

A pilot program which includes the best and brightest students and athletes in the district would establish the point of pan-educational benefits.  This would be a savvy introduction and ‘branding’ in student’s minds.  I’ll bet the science and engineering Olympiad students could design a wearable wireless brainwave transmitter read by a robot.  Each team member could control separate robot functions by adjusting their neural output.

Neurofeedback devices are sold to schools with only one video tape for instruction on use.  Volunteers and college students have been trained to do neurofeedback sessions on 2776 felons over 25 years with no bad sessions.  Re-arrest rates dropped to only 15% after 3 years.

Is it an Assistive Technology Device and Service?  If you want it to be, then yes, but this puts into the Special Ed category.  It need not reside there because of it’s broad use by non-disabled students.  You can expect neurofeedback to be requested as part of IEP under 504/ADA. The easiest thing to do at first in to refer to local practitioners.  Look for BCIA certification, but this is not required.

Neurofeedback is a successful treatment with a significant proportion of students with the following disorders (incomplete): 

ADHD, alcoholism, anxiety, autism, depression, dyslexia, epilepsy, fibromyalgia,

headaches, head injury, IBS, juvenile delinquency (recidivism), mental retardation, migraines, mild traumatic brain injury, panic, PTSD, PMS, Reynard’s, sleep disorders, speech and language impairment, dysgraphia and dyscalculia, as well as for those with poor visual and auditory memory.

Is There Good Evidence for Educational Programs Adopted at Lower Merion?

The following programs are supported by the District for Special Needs students.

Orton Gillingham, the Wilson reading system, Fast Forward, Lindamood-Bell, Resource Room, Instructional Support Lab, REACH, N.O.W., P.R.I.D.E., and Specialized Learning Support.

“Data driven decision making” is a catch phrase in the No Child Left Behind legislation.

The evidence of efficacy is quite mild that any of these programs actually do what they purport to do.  The best proof for any of these programs are weak outcome studies.  The quality of evidence for neurofeedback is greatly superior to all of these studies combined.

Neurofeedback research is promising, consistent, long standing and voluminous.  Yet there has not been funding for the large scale science needed to reach the highest standard of proof which would change medical paradigms.  But this standard of proof is beyond anything used in education.

Implementation Analogy. 

“We need to get these kids into better physical condition!  Their muscles are weak, stamina is poor and they’re pudgy.”   So let’s get a variety of experts in here and see what they can do.  A pilot study includes the star of an exercise video, a personal trainer, an exercise physiologist, a YMCA tennis coach, a yoga teacher, and the Norditrac vendor.  They are all given grants for training one hour a day for 2 months.  Voila!  Everything works!  Muscles stronger, better stamina, and fewer pounds.

The differences with conditioning of the brain are that results are more enduring and it is safer than some of these approaches.  The similarity is that various neurofeedback proponents have different approaches which have a history of success.