Technology & Science

Biofeedback therapy tested for kids with ADHD

Children in Edmonton with ADHD are testing a controversial treatment that aims to improve their concentration.

Children in Edmonton with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are testing a controversial treatment that aims to improve their concentration.

Although many doctors consider the technique to be a waste of time and money, some researchers say it may be worth exploring.

Children with ADHD have too many long, lazy brain waves, seen in day-dreaming.

The condition affects up to seven per cent of children, and can lead to poor concentration and disruptive behaviour in school.

Using a process called biofeedback, those diagnosed with ADHD learn to concentrate better, focusing their brain waves to complete a task, such as making a toy rocket move faster.

Biofeedback works by monitoring body functions like blood pressure, muscle or brain wave activity. Subjects see or hear information about how their body is working, and they are taught to change the functions through relaxation.

Tannie Cyr wanted her two sons, Domico, 9, and Devonte, 11, to try the treatment rather than relying on drugs.

"I would like for them to be in control," said Cyr. "I believe in therapy and learning social skills. I believe in teaching them how to be in better control of their brain."

The treatment can help children to learn to achieve a more focused state, agreed Dr. Lola Baydala, a pediatrician in Edmonton.

Yet few Canadian children have access to biofeedback, because it is expensive, time-consuming and considered unproven.

Treatment at a private clinic can cost several thousand dollars, paid directly out of parents' pockets.

The money is not well spent, according to Dr. Wendy Roberts, a specialist in ADHD at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children.

Roberts said she is not convinced that using biofeedback to teach a child strategies to focus their attention and fill in gaps in learning will help them pick up skills.

Paying for tutors and counselling is better, she believes.

To see if biofeedback makes a difference, researchers in Edmonton are recruiting 60 children with ADHD. Half will get biofeedback, while half will go through the motions without receiving therapy.

After 20 weeks, the team will compare the two groups to see who has fared better.